Chelsea’s biggest weakness exposed again as dreadful run extended in defeat to Manchester United

Chelsea were comfortably dispatched by Man Utd  (AP)
Chelsea were comfortably dispatched by Man Utd (AP)

Chelsea have become toothless against England’s biggest and best teams.

A 4-1 defeat away at Manchester United was just another sad episode in a dismal season but the trend of poor performances in big domestic matches is becoming an increasingly common theme.

Casemiro headed in an opener after just six minutes at Old Trafford, before Anthony Martial tapped in a second just before half-time and Bruno Fernandes won and scored a penalty.

Marcus Rashford added a fourth after a dreadful error by Wesley Fofana, while Joao Felix netted a late consolation goal for Chelsea.

It was a remarkable scoreline after a first half in which the visitors played well but wasted big chances through Mykhailo Mudryk, Kai Havertz and Conor Gallagher.

The defeat extended Chelsea’s winless streak against United to 11 league games, as the Red Devils secured Champions League qualification as a result of their big win.

Such numbers are nothing new for the Blues. Manchester City, for instance, won their sixth match in a row against Chelsea on Sunday, the first time in their history they have managed such a run.

Since the Blues won the Champions League final in 2021 under Thomas Tuchel, they haven’t even managed to score against Pep Guardiola’s side.

This trend, of course, pre-dates the current Boehly-Clearlake ownership group but under them it has only gotten worse.

Since the start of last season, Chelsea have lost in all 15 of their matches against teams starting above them in the Premier League table. Those defeats ended Tuchel’s title challenge last season and forced the Blues to settle for a race to the top four.

This season, with so many teams above the Blues, they have not even been able to compete for a place in either Europe’s second or third-tier competitions.

The lack of competitiveness and leadership at Chelsea is a problem that concerns interim manager Frank Lampard, who was part of an aggressive Roman Abramovich-era dressing room.

He said ahead of kick-off: “My experience of football is that if you switch it off, it’s not easy to switch it on. It doesn’t always become an overnight remedy.

“It’s not going to be my responsibility but from my experience of being in a consistent performing club for many years, the moments you do switch off become very hard to switch it on. That will be the test next year.”

It is why he hasn’t tried to sugarcoat or protect a group of players who have lost a core Chelsea value: the will to win.

He did, at least, play Chelsea’s youngest XI in Premier League history with starts handed to Carney Chukwuemeka, Lewis Hall and Noni Madueke.

Mauricio Pochettino will soon arrive as the new manager, the son of a farm labourer from Santa Fe in Argentina who likes to describe himself as a fighter. His task from day one will be to re-light the fire inside this weak group of Chelsea players.