Torres central to Villas-Boas's plans despite that howler against United

Old Trafford defeat provided glimpse of new Chelsea built around striker that uses quick 'vertical passes' to attack

There can be no consolation for the open goal missed by Fernando Torres on Sunday at Old Trafford, especially not for a man whose reputation is of a goalscorer who scores goals from the most unpromising situations. On this occasion, for Torres, the reverse was the case.

In the seconds after he went around David de Gea and then failed to guide the ball into the empty net, Torres could have slipped into the footballers' default mood of blaming someone else. For some of them it is an instantaneous reaction. Even Wayne Rooney turned his attentions to examining the turf in the aftermath of his penalty miss in the same game. But the Chelsea striker saw the moment for what it was – his own fault – and did not attempt to disguise his anguish.

As usual with Torres the game against Manchester United was another performance that was difficult to label, including as it did, one brilliantly taken goal, and three subsequent missed opportunities. The first two came in quick succession in the 72nd minute, one saved by De Gea, the second hit over the bar but the original opening was created by Torres beating Michael Carrick and then Phil Jones. Even the key miss, 11 minutes later was preceded by a clever little bit of skill to take him past De Gea.

Once the smoke had cleared, the evidence on Sunday was that life may be changing for the £50m striker who has looked in danger of becoming the most expensive transfer folly in English football history.

Chelsea played the way Torres wants them to play, and more specifically it was football played according to the principles laid down by Torres in the interview he did while on international duty with Spain that caused such a stir last week. His delivery might have been indelicate – such as his characterisation of Chelsea having the "older player, who plays very slow" – but there were other valid points in there.

Watch again the footage of Torres's most famous goal in the Euro 2008 final against Germany. It is the archetypal Torres goal: a ball from Xavi is played behind the German defender Philipp Lahm, who thinks Torres is behind him to his left, but a burst of pace takes Torres on to his right shoulder and with one stab of the right boot the ball is lifted neatly over the goalkeeper just as the two Germans converge on the ball.

In many respects it was not dissimilar in its creation and execution from the goal Torres scored against United on Sunday: the run in behind Phil Jones, the ball behind the defender from Nicolas Anelka and the stabbed finish, which lifted it over De Gea whose instinct, like all goalkeepers, is to go low.

In that interview last week, Torres said: "Chelsea is, between the English teams, maybe the least English. They have a slow way of playing. [They] always have the ball [so they] make the opposition fall back easily so they leave no holes. That's because of the kind of player Chelsea has: an older player, who plays very slow, who has a lot of possession, and that's what the club is trying to change now."

Whether the Torres of 2011 with two goals in 24 games for the club, as his record stands now, was in a position to make those kind of remarks is debatable. But they struck a chord, especially in the second half of the game when Frank Lampard was replaced by Anelka, whose pass it was that played Torres in on goal. Andre Villas-Boas likes to call them "vertical passes", the passes that move the ball forward quickly and through the spaces in the opposition.

It was a brief glimpse of a new Chelsea with Juan Mata a critical figure in the whole ensemble. How will Villas-Boas go from here? The second half at Old Trafford will have been, in spite of the result, a vindication of sorts for the attacking style he wants to play. There may be a consensus that Lampard is fading but where else will Chelsea get those 20 goals a season that he scored for seven consecutive years before his injury-hit 2010-11 season? Can Villas-Boas leave out Didier Drogba when he comes back from the effects of that concussion against Norwich?

Unlike his predecessors who have managed the club since Mourinho, Villas-Boas has an opportunity to change this Chelsea side. The contracts of Drogba, Anelka and Florent Malouda all expire at the end of this season. Lampard, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech all have one more season at the club beyond this one. Of the old guard, only John Terry is contracted as far as 2014. You get the impression that if Villas-Boas still has the confidence of Roman Abramovich this time next year then he will be in charge of a radically different Chelsea team.

Yet at the centre of it remains the conundrum of Torres, the man around whom this new team needs to be built. Only Cech made himself available to speak after Sunday's game and he probably had the worst view of Torres's miss. "Unfortunately, I don't know what happened, but he didn't score that," he said. "But he created a lot and his movement was there. You can see it. I'm not worried about it at all. He will score goals.

"Everybody counts the goals a striker gets. It's always like that. But if you look at Dimitar Berbatov, for example, he went to United not only because he scores goals but because he created 30 every season for Tottenham. That's why they got him to Old Trafford. With Fernando it's the same. He scores goals, as he showed, but he can create them as well. Ideally, of course, you want your strikers to score. But if they can create two goals every game, then who cares how many they score?"

Who cares? Certainly in those moments after he failed to guide the ball into the empty United net, Torres looked like he cared very much. The sooner he is a success, the sooner Villas-Boas will be able to implement his changes – with or without the older generation. That is why Torres, playing well and, most importantly, scoring goals, is so crucial to Chelsea's future.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee