MAN UTD 4-1 CHELSEA: Casemiro, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford all scored to fire Manchester United back into the Champions League and pile more agony on Frank Lampard.
Manchester United breezed their way back into the Champions League next season with a thumping 4-1 win at home to Chelsea.
Casemiro, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford each struck once to consign Frank Lampard to his eighth defeat in 10 games as the Blues’ interim leader. United were two goals to the good at the break, despite Chelsea threatening throughout the first half but failing to convert through the likes of Mykhaylo Mudryk and Kai Havertz.
Fernandes’ penalty and a scrappy Rashford goal then sealed a top-four finish for the Red Devils, who regrettably lost Antony to a serious-looking injury in the opening minutes which puts his prospects of appearing in the all-Manchester FA Cup final in significant trouble. For Lampard’s team, who grabbed a late consolation goal back through loanee Joao Felix, the season can’t end quick enough.
Six talking points from Old Trafford are listed below.
1. Mudryk punished by Casemiro
It’s been a challenging few months for Mykhaylo Mudryk. After joining Chelsea in an eye-watering £88.5million deal in January, the Ukrainian wonderkid has bombed – and hard.
Without a goal in his first 16 games for the Blues, he’s had probably no better opportunity to break his duck than the chance he was given after four minutes at Old Trafford. As youthful left-back Lewis Hall sprinted down the flank and delivered a perfectly-weighted ball across United’s penalty area, Mudryk nevertheless failed to make decent contact and sent a weak effort past the post of a relieved David de Gea.
Two minutes later and the 22-year-old winger was made to repent his sitter even more, as Casemiro sprang up to nod in a Christian Eriksen free-kick and give the Red Devils an early lead which should’ve truly belonged to Chelsea. The midfield giant has made a fetish of scoring near-post headers in his debut year and Frank Lampard’s Blues were his latest victim.
2. Antony’s agony
Just when it was going swimmingly for Erik ten Hag’s side as they began on another probing attack, a lunging but fair challenge on Antony by Chelsea defender Trevoh Chalobah saw United’s No.21 fall tumbling over. At first it appeared to be yet another melodramatic request for a foul, but as referee Stuart Attwell permitted play to continue, Anthony’s screaming didn’t stop.
The Brazilian winger, who’s been quietly growing over the course of his debut season in English football, had sustained a nasty-looking injury as a result of Chalobah’s fine piece of defending. Soon enough a stretcher came on and so was Marcus Rashford to replace him.
Antony was in tears as he proceeded down the tunnel with the idea of missing next Saturday’s Manchester derby FA Cup final in mind. Ten Hag undoubtedly has other choices on the right flank, but none are as natural as the guy he signed from Ajax last summer in an £85m move.
3. Gulf in class
If you went on at half-time and saw the scoreboard ‘United 2-0 Chelsea’, you’d be well within your rights to presume that the Red Devils had dominated the first half. Yet it was more a case of the visitors squandering chance after chance, a familiar viewing for the Stamford Bridge crowd since the outset of what’s been a dismal campaign.
Chelsea had hope at 1-0 but when Casemiro sent a fantastic disguised pass into Sancho, the United winger unselfishly saw Anthony Martial open for a tap-in at the back post and the Frenchman cleanly tucked away. It was superb attacking play from the hosts, who demonstrated that the difference between these sides on the night was quality in the final third, but boss Ten Hag won’t have been delighted with Red Devils’ overall sloppiness which continued to allow the Blues in behind.
4. Hall a real handful
Chelsea’s recent successes have been few and far between, but Lewis Hall’s rise has been something to appreciate. Blocked from teaming up with England’s under-20s for the ongoing World Cup in Argentina, the Blues academy graduate has had to be patient for his moment before injuries to fellow left-back Ben Chilwell and Marc Cucurella.
Hall, who received the start from Lampard for the third straight game, caused issues for United’s defense all night with crosses and one strong attempt that De Gea parried. After Mudryk failed to convert from the teenager’s pass in the first few minutes, Kai Havertz did the same after Chelsea had gone behind. Still only 18, Hall showed hints that new – although not yet confirmed – boss Mauricio Pochettino will adore and was rated by Gary Neville as “really impressive.”
5. Rashford gifted his 30th
As he approaches the end of his best-ever year from a goalscoring prospective, Marcus Rashford hasn’t had an easier strike than United’s fourth of the night in what became a turgid end to the game from a Chelsea perspective. Having lost their composure in the aftermath of Fernandes’ coolly-converted penalty and provoking trouble, the Blues quickly gifted their hosts another goal.
Tapping in following Kepa Arrizabalaga’s inital save, Rashford became the first player to score 30 in all competitions since Robin van Persie did it in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year in charge, 2012-13. There’re two more games to go for the England international, who loves a goal against Manchester City and will fancy improving his total over the following two Sundays.
6. Next stop: Champions League
Thursday night football is no more for United – at least until 2024. With the victory, the Red Devils were able to reclaim their Champions League spot; they only required a draw to do so.
One of Ten Hag’s key aims in his debut campaign at the helm arguably took longer to secure than the Red Devils’ would’ve wanted, with Liverpool almost catching them, but the work is done. Victory over Fulham on Sunday would clinch up third place, too, while Chelsea know that they’ll have to live with the disgrace of a bottom-half finish.