Robbie Savage: How clever Chelsea saw off Man Utd threat

In his regular BBC Sport column, Robbie Savage looks at Chelsea's victory over Manchester United.

In many ways this was a classic performance from Chelsea under Jose Mourinho: they were not at their best but were well organised, worked hard and got the three points.

That is what has made the Blues such strong contenders for the Premier League title, but they had to deal with a lot of United pressure at the start of the game before going on to win comfortably. This how they did it.

Chelsea cancel out United's pace

In Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia, United boss David Moyes picked four fast attacking players to hurt Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

But United could not make that pace count because Chelsea's back four stayed so deep throughout the game.

Players' average position in Chelsea v Man Utd
Average position of players in Chelsea v Manchester United
Key to average position graphic

There was no gap between the Blues backline and midfield either, because David Luiz and Ramires also dropped to sit in front of their defenders.

That meant there was no space behind the Chelsea defence for United's players to run into.

Fastest managers to 100 Premier League wins

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

142 games

Sir Alex Ferguson

162

Arsene Wenger

179

Rafael Benitez

181

Kenny Dalglish

197

Januzaj was still a threat, with his skill taking him past players, including Luiz when he burst into the Chelsea area on one occasion, and he also set up Welbeck for United's best early chance.

But the way Chelsea were set up meant that, for all United's possession in the first half - even in the first 10 minutes when they had 78% of the ball - Mourinho's men rarely looked in trouble.

Compare that with United, who wasted their strong start because they were so bad at the back.

There were errors involved in all three of Chelsea's goals, starting when Phil Jones was beaten too easily by Eto'o before he made it 1-0.

United were all over the place positionally for the second goal after clearing Chelsea's initial corner, meaning Eto'o was completely unmarked in the middle of the goal.

And their marking was terrible at the corner that saw Gary Cahill's header saved before Eto'o completed his hat-trick from the rebound.

Blues' flair players have work ethic too

Chelsea's solid six at the back means the four men in front of them - Eto'o, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian - can raid forward on the break.

That trio of Hazard, Oscar and Willian break so quickly when they are playing behind Eto'o but they have other jobs as well.

Much has been made of how Mourinho demands his players track back, and we saw how important that was against United, but they did their defensive work high up the pitch too.

Hazard operated mainly on the left, and roamed across the pitch less than usual.

Oscar was in the centre and Willian started on the right but, over the 90 minutes, he covered many other areas, something he has done regularly in the last 10 games.

Touches against Man Utd and heat map over last 10 Chelsea games
Touches against Man Utd and heat map over last 10 Chelsea games
Key to touches and heat map

Like Willian, Hazard tracked back whenever he had to, and he also had an impact up front.

This was not the sort of spectacular performance we have seen from the Belgian at times this season but he still played a part in Chelsea's first goal without touching the ball.

He challenged Michael Carrick for his header that fell for Eto'o and then, as Eto'o cut inside Jones, made a run that took Carrick away and gave him time to get in his shot.

Eto'o the man for the big occasion

Big players come to the fore in the big games and Eto'o has been there and done it many times in his career.

Samuel Eto'o fires Chelsea ahead

Samuel Eto'o fires Chelsea ahead against Manchester United

He has not sparkled too often in his time at Stamford Bridge but the signs are he is coming into form at the right time of the season.

Eto'o in the Premier League 2013-14

Games

12

Minutes played

719

Goals

6

Shots

25

Shooting accuracy

64%

Goals to shots ratio

24%

Mourinho may not have a Didier Drogba-like targetman to lead his line but, in Eto'o, he has a proven poacher. If you give him chances, he will take them, as we saw against United.

Because none of the Chelsea strikers really hit form in the first half of the season, I thought signing a new striker in the January transfer window would massively increase their title chances.

But, as with Arsenal - who rely on Olivier Giroud up front - the Blues are clearly doing very well with the players they have already got.

Fernando Torres's injury might make Mourinho change his mind about bringing somebody in but he says Demba Ba is in good form so he is going to give him his chance - and he has not been wrong too often in the past few months.