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Chelsea are having a better season than Man Utd

The 2023/24 Premier League campaign was supposed to be a season of affirmation for Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.

After ending the club’s six-year title drought and steering them back into the Champions League group stages in his first year at Old Trafford, the ex-Ajax tactician was considered the Red Devils’ saviour. 

Whether it was just beginner’s luck or the stars aligned to restore United among the Premier League elite in 2022/23, Ten Hag hauled the 20-time English champions from the ashes.

Chelsea, owned by American businessman Todd Boehly, stood by and watched their rivals fighting for the highest accolades while stuttering in the lower reaches for the first time in the 21st century.

Following an unacceptably miserable last season, the Blues hired Mauricio Pochettino to embark on a renaissance mission while continuing to invest heavily in new arrivals. 

It took the Argentine longer than expected to find the proper set-up and put all the pieces into place, but once he discovered the winning formula, the Blues started to look like their former selves.

With only six rounds left, mid-table Chelsea trail seventh-placed Man Utd by three points, yet they’re in far better shape and could comfortably pip Ten Hag’s troops to a coveted European finish. 

Two faces of the same coin

Chelsea’s defensive frailties have become notorious, and that’s where Pochettino’s tactics can still improve.

By contrast, Man Utd’s defensive record looks impressive. 

Only the leading Premier League trio have conceded fewer goals than the Red Devils’ 48. But there’s more than meets the eye.

Unlike Chelsea, fortuitous circumstances and Andre Onana’s occasional brilliance have masked United’s defensive woes.

If you look under the hood, the engine has fallen to pieces, as revealed by the embarrassing fact that Ten Hag’s men have conceded more shots on goal than any other side in Europe’s top-five leagues in 2024.

Pochettino’s offensive ideas trump Ten Hag’s reliance on individual plays

Among several positives Pochettino has brought to Stamford Bridge is a diversified attack. 

While Man Utd’s game plan looks one-dimensional – dependant on Bruno Fernandes’ moments of magic and Alejandro Garnacho’s unique ability to hit Hail Mary shots – Chelsea’s attacks are far more threatening. 

Despite the Blues’ nasty habit of underperforming xG almost every matchday, they’ve averaged 1.96 goals per game this Premier League campaign, beating United’s haul of 47 by 14 with a game in hand.

If only Nicolas Jackson could improve his wasteful finishing. The same goes for Raheem Sterling, whose proneness to incredible misses is well-documented. 

On the bright side, Cole Palmer’s memorable breakout Premier League season is a reason for celebration, with Chelsea finally having a player competing for the Golden Boot after Didier Drogba. 

The sun shines brighter at the Bridge

No matter how this season ends, Pochettino can be happier of the two managers.

Chelsea have regained their identity in the second half of the season and will look forward to 2024/25 even if they fail to secure European qualification. 

Meanwhile, Man Utd are up the creek without a paddle – faceless in attack and porous at the back, with Ten Hag’s future covered with a veil of mystery. 

Kobbie Mainoo’s first-team introduction will be the Dutchman’s legacy at Old Trafford should the board decide to show him the door after a lacklustre campaign.

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