The Grant’s debut
The new Chelsea manager first game may have ended in defeat but Grant can still be at least partially satisfied with his day’s work.
After the turbulence of the last few days – the rapid end of Jose Mourinho’s reign and the Israeli’s hasty appointment – there has been speculation over how the London club’s players would react.
Would their “shock and sorrow”, in Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon’s words, at seeing ‘the Special One’ depart on Wednesday be translated on to the pitch?
With people writing off their entire season already, Chelsea desperately needed a show of unity at Old Trafford – and they produced one.
Grant’s players traded hugs and high fives before kick-off and kept battling for their new boss even when luck deserted them.
And, on this evidence, not a lot has changed in the Chelsea set-up, apart from the absence of Mourinho of course.
We were never going to see a radical tactical change for this game because Grant would have been foolish to have tried to make any significant changes to the team’s system ahead of such a tough fixture against the Premier League champions.
And, once Mikel Jon Obi had been sent off for his lunge at Patrice Evra, we were never going to see Chelsea in full flow either.
It was a poor challenge by the Blues midfielder but it should have been punished by a yellow card, not a red.
Grant’s luck was out and referee Mike Dean’s decision was one reason why this game will be better remembered for the official’s performance, rather than Chelsea’s.
Credit must go to Chelsea as, even without creating more than a handful of chances, they were still in the game until the closing minutes when Louis Saha was judged to have been clipped in the area by Tal Ben Haim and the Frenchman picked himself up to seal United’s win.
Undoubtedly, United deserved their victory but they have their own problems too – a lack of cutting edge that meant they needed Saha’s spot-kick to make sure of victory.
So Grant begins his reign at the Chelsea helm with a defeat but it is clearly too early too judge him as a manager.
It is over the next few weeks – when Chelsea have faced Hull City, Fulham, Valencia and Bolton – that we will know more about the man and his methods.
And yes, although Chelsea will have easier days against easier opposition, there will still be some tough times for Grant as he tries to step out of Mourinho’s shadow and prove his doubters wrong.
He will be grateful though that he can count on his squad to back him where it matters – on the pitch.