Toothless Morata, questionable Conte at fault in Chelsea loss to Man United
Chelsea contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory losing 2-1 to Manchester United after having taken the lead in a keenly fought contest at Old Trafford. The Blues opened the scoring with an excellent goal from Willian shortly after the half-hour mark, but were soon pegged back when Romelu Lukaku equalised against his former club.
It got worse for Chelsea after the break as their former manager Jose Mourinho got the better of current boss Antonio Conte by making more effective use of his substitutions, which included sending on Jesse Lingard who scored the winner for United. The defeat, coupled with Tottenham Hotspur's victory earlier in the day away at Crystal Palace, leaves Chelsea in fifth place in the Premier League two points adrift of Spurs in the automatic Champions League qualification slots.
Willian's blistering current form justified his inclusion as did his excellent goal. Chelsea clearly benefited from the Brazilian being on the pitch alongside Eden Hazard and playing with a striker between them.
Unfortunately, that striker was Alvaro Morata. How Chelsea would have fared if Lukaku had been leading the line feeding off Willian and Hazard is a crying over spilled milk question. The bottom line is though, the reason United won the game is that they had a hustling-bustling striker and Chelsea didn't and Conte didn't find a remedy for the problem in the allotted time.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Conte's inertia when it came to making substitutions in the second-half was as unfathomable as his reasoning to make his first change withdrawing Hazard in favour of Pedro. The Italian later advised that this was a "tactical" decision. The fact that United scored their winner a minute later may have just been coincidence, but given the look on Hazard's face when he was subbed there is a creeping sense of wonderment about the knock-on effect for his teammates whose concentration levels might have dipped as they pondered the switch.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Arguably had little chance with either of United's goals and the first time he had to make a decent save was midway through the second half when acrobatically tipping over a first time Lukaku volley.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- There is no doubting Azpilicueta's all-round ability as a defender and against United the Spain international's work-rate couldn't be faulted, but it is in the captain's role where questions have to be asked. Once again, Chelsea lacked the bite and urgency to battle back when conceding and then going behind.
DF Andrea Christensen, 5 -- It's hard on Christensen that for the second time in a week his relative inexperience has cost Chelsea dearly. A mistake against Barcelona led to Lionel Messi equalising midweek in the Champions League, and against United another competent performance was undermined with an error which allowed Lingard too much time to head the ball past Courtois.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Did well to nullify the threat of Alexis Sanchez, but along with Christensen and Azpilicueta didn't really have an answer for Lukaku's physicality and presence particularly in the second half.
MF Victor Moses, 5 -- Had the measure of Ashley Young on the right flank and early on caused United plenty of problems when linking up with Willian. Drifted out of the game once the home side took control of midfield and was withdrawn late on in favour of Olivier Giroud.
MF Marcos Alonso, 6 -- Had a decent tussle with Antonio Valencia for control of the left flank, a battle which neither player seemed to win and as a result negated each others usual effectiveness.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- The midfield war of attrition between Kante, his partner Danny Drinkwater and Man United's Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic was exhausting to watch. Put a shift in, but as so often happened previously when partnered by Tiemoue Bakayoko or Cesc Fabregas, with Drinkwater at his side it was still a case of Kante having to do the quality work of two men and Chelsea struggling as a result.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 6 -- Had a moment of glory to score against the club who discarded him, but David De Gea scrambled to make a save. Didn't shirk his responsibilities in the midfield tug of war, but looked a class below those around him.
FW Willian, 8 -- Has been Chelsea's best player of late, and the Brazil international was on the money again starting and completing the flowing move which brought the Blues goal, his fourth in his past three appearances. Had further chances when trying to exploit De Gea's struggles with the sun shining in his eyes in the second half, but it wasn't to be.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Alongside Willian, caused United's defence plenty of problems. Combined well with the Brazilian to assist Chelsea's goal and was annoyingly withdrawn by Conte in the 73rd minute, quite how that will affect the Belgium international's state of mind when it comes to deciding to stay at Stamford Bridge remains to be seen... but it won't help.
FW Alvaro Morata, 4 -- His ability when he's on a football pitch to imitate Bambi on an ice rink is a source of deep annoyance for Chelsea supporters. Once again the Spain international, who fluffed an excellent chance to score in the opening minutes, went to ground too easily and too often and generally lacked the type of commitment that the Blues need if they are to be competitive when the chips are down.
FW Pedro, NR -- Replaced Hazard for the final 20 minutes of the game and did absolutely nothing to warrant the substitution.
FW Olivier Giroud, NR -- Replaced Moses in the 78th minute, got involved and made his presence felt more in 15 minutes or so than Morata did in the entire game.
MF Cesc Fabregas NR -- A late replacement for Drinkwater, didn't have enough time to make the best use of his creative talent.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco