Ruben Loftus-Cheek was in the thick of a congested midfield battle yesterday and he explained what it was like trying to operate in that area of the park during our draw with Manchester United.
Loftus-Cheek started his first league game since the win at Brentford and completed 90 minutes for the fourth time in all competitions this season. He registered an impressive 91 per cent pass completion rate and won six aerial duels, twice as many as any other player on the pitch.
It was his midfield partner Jorginho who played a major part in both goals, converting a penalty not long after he was dispossessed by Jadon Sancho to open the scoring early in the second half. Reflecting on the result, Loftus-Cheek acknowledged a sense of frustration in the Blues camp.
‘We wanted more,’ said the midfielder.
‘We had the upper hand most of the game, we had most of the ball, and we had chances we didn’t take.
‘They had a few counter-attacks but that was it. It was a scrappy game, very high intensity. Both teams wanted to press and put players under pressure, so there were a lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers in midfield. That’s what you get in big games. The stakes are high and it gets heated.
‘We can be disappointed because we felt we could win the game, but it’s a point and we’ll take that.’
There was much made beforehand about Michael Carrick’s decision to field Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay in Manchester United’s midfield, and Loftus-Cheek analyzed what that meant for how the contest played out.
‘They had three defensive midfielders in there to shut up shop and stop us playing through them. That made it hard for us, which is why we didn’t create clear-cut chances. Credit to them for that.
‘We knew they would pack the middle out and try and make it hard for us to break them down. They did that. It was very compact in the middle. They made it difficult for us to find space between the lines. Our chances came from set-pieces and half chances and in these games, you have to take them. We didn’t.
‘We did well to come back,’ Ruben continued.
‘It was a downer conceding a goal off our back, but we had to keep pushing. We got the penalty and Jorgi put it away well. We had other chances as well we couldn’t take. That’s football. Sometimes you put it in the back of the net, and sometimes you don’t.’
Alas it was not to be for the Blues in terms of three Premier League points at the Bridge yesterday but it did mark another positive step forward for Loftus-Cheek, who continues to impress in his first season working with Thomas Tuchel.
‘I’m enjoying my football, especially playing in games like this which mean a lot with points at stake,’ said the 25-year-old.
‘I’m enjoying my football and I just want to keep playing.’