Frank Lampard saw the bigger picture when his first game as the Chelsea manager ended in a 4-0 defeat by Manchester United. He found himself under an uncomfortable spotlight but refused to lose his nerve. Lampard had arrived at Stamford Bridge with a plan and was not about to rip it up after one setback.

Chelsea’s journey might have taken a different path if someone else had been in charge. A less patient manager might have decided it was too soon for the academy products and that a more cautious tactical approach was required. It might have been time to tighten up at the back and to replace the kids with the wise old heads.

Yet Lampard did not flinch after that demoralising afternoon at Old Trafford. He says it was easy to ignore the inevitable criticism, even though it made plenty of headlines when José Mourinho questioned Chelsea’s tactics and inexperience while analysing the game for Sky. Undeterred, Lampard kept faith in his youngsters and focused on making his team more clinical in defence and attack.

Dropping Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount never crossed his mind and a patient approach has paid off. Chelsea are fourth in the Premier League, top of their Champions League group and determined to make it eight wins on the bounce when they host United in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.

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Lampard insists he paid no attention to the critics, though. “There is a lot of noise, win, lose or draw; selection, whatever 11 I pick,” he said. “With this big wide world of social media it will be dissected and people will have different opinions and some people who are ex-players or ex-managers will have different opinions.

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“I set out this season to see what these young boys could do. If I didn’t have a transfer ban and came to this club and had opportunities to bring players in during the summer, I still would have trusted the young boys. For me to have thrown that away after one game at Manchester United and a few opinions, that would have made me a bit of a flip-flopper.”

Willian celebrates scoring Chelsea’s fourth goal with Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic at Burnley.



Willian celebrates scoring Chelsea’s fourth goal with Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic at Burnley. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Lampard, whose back four could look even more youthful if Reece James and Marc Guehi start against United, was asked what happens to young players who are dropped after one bad game. “That’s part of the process for a young player,” he said. “They have to feel you believe in them. I remember my managers giving me that sense they believed in me because everybody will have a bad game or an off day. I think that’s part of my job, to give all my players belief, but particularly the young ones who are playing their first games or whatever at Old Trafford.”

The encouraging atmosphere has brought the best out of Kurt Zouma, who was written off after conceding a penalty against United and scoring a last-minute own goal in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield United in August. Zouma has formed a solid partnership in central defence with Fikayo Tomori, justifying Lampard’s surprising decision to sell David Luiz to Arsenal.

“He has been fantastic,” Lampard said of Zouma. “There was interest in the summer after we all know he had a very good loan at Everton last year. But I believed in him as I believed in Tomori – that is why I made the decisions I made pre-season.

“That was a tough game but since then he has gone from strength to strength and been a pleasure to coach. He [Zouma] just does his job, works hard, smiles a lot, gives everything to the group and is playing really well.

“It has been nice to get some stability, albeit because of injuries, between him and Fikayo in the last games. It has been good to get them playing together to see the little bond they are getting on and off the pitch. It is a nice little story and it must continue.”



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