Manchester United is top of the table and Chelsea fans rightly have feelings about that. Instead of being upset, the Blues should be inspired.
There was much handwringing on social media as Manchester United defeated Burnley and went top of the table. United, after having a slow start to the season, have surged in the last month to pull ahead of even Liverpool. They are currently 10 points clear of Chelsea with the same amount of games played.
The concern is understandable. As Chelsea was flying high earlier in the season, United was slogging through midtable. They even fell out of a Champions League group they very much had control over. But the tale around that is clawing back up until reaching the top of the table, just as Chelsea began to slip.
Fans shouldn’t be spending as much time being upset about it though. Instead, they should be inspired. United and Chelsea have more in common than many want to believe but if they can go from bad to great in a manner of a month or so, there is simply no reason why Chelsea cannot do the same.
The recent run of results is rightly influencing perceptions, but it is also skewing them away from reality. The mood at Chelsea quickly went from “title race” and “Frank Lampard is a genius” to “we’ll be lucky to get top four” and “what a fraud”. The change in mood is understandable, but it also isn’t anything Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not face earlier in the season.
There was a moment this season where it looked as though one loss would be the end of Solskjaer’s time in charge at United. Short term options like Max Allegri were touted, but so were long term ones like Julian Nagelsmann. But Solskjaer won the game where the ax would fall. And the next one. And the next.
It goes to show just how weird this season is going to be and how making a knee jerk decision may be the wrong decision. Were Solskjaer sacked, would United be top right now? Surely not given a new manager would have to learn the players and they would have to learn his demands and training.
This is not to say Lampard will be able to manufacture a similar turnaround, but his trajectory at Chelsea doesn’t look much different than Solskjaer’s thus far. There are runs of immense quality, but there are also runs of dour football. In the latter the whispers of a sack may turn into shouts, but Solskjaer has worked his way back into the good graces just like Lampard has last season and this season (remember how bad the start was?).
“But Chelsea spent so much and we should always aim for the title” is a fair point but one that dismisses Solskjaer spending just as much (albeit spread out over more windows) and United also aiming for the title. In fact, United’s impatience since Sir Alex Ferguson left has surely undone more of his work than it has saved it. United hasn’t won a title since 2013. Chelsea hasn’t since 2017. But both keep losing patience and looking for the next solution rather than pushing through on the current rebuild that has to happen.
Liverpool is also a side that desperately needed that rebuild but didn’t have the patience for it. They finally found the patience for Jurgen Klopp and while it too time, eventually they got through the weeds and into their promise land. Solskjaer and Lampard are not Klopp, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a similar trajectory.
United is top of the table now. A month or two ago they were considering moving on from Solskjaer. Chelsea was in a title race a month or two ago and now there are considerations for sacking Lampard. If this season says anything at this point, it is that it is far from over. Chelsea will have to do it the hard way now, but there are 21 matches left to overcome the results of the previous 17. Instead of being upset by United’s rebound, be inspired by it. And, of course, look at the table when it’s done not when it’s still before the halfway point.