Manchester United bounced back to their winning ways in the English Premier League with a masterclass 2-1 win over a wasteful Chelsea side.
Scott McTominay’s rich vein of form continues as his goals in the 19th and 70th minute were enough to pull the “Red Devils” over the line. Both teams have been suffering a topsy turvy season since the start of the 2023/24 campaign. However, it was Manchester United who showed more hunger and desperation for the three points.
Under fire Man-United manager Erik Ten Hag stood by the club stance in banning reporters from his press conference amid claims he had lost the dressing room. Those reports came at the backend of a brutal 1-0 defeat to Newcastle despite being the league’s most in form team. Manchester United has not won an away game against a big six team since the club saw the back of former manager and cult hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Chelsea on the other hand eased passed Brighton 3-2 last Sunday to register their 5th win in 14 matches. Chelsea entered the contest winless in 11 top flight games against Man-United. It’s hard to believe that the last time the Blues beat the ‘Red Devils’ was November 2017 and the last time they won at Old Trafford was May 2013.
Manchester United started the game like a house on fire signaling their intent in the 5th minute with a ferocious hit from 25-yards by Rasmus Holjund, which had Sanchez turned behind for a corner. Four minutes later United were awarded a penalty after twinkle-toe Anthony weaved his way in the box opted against pulling the trigger and was clobbered by Fernandez after the delay invited the challenge.
Bruno Fernandes gave up the last penalty kick to Rashford and decided to fancy his chances this time, but he was denied by Sanchez who saved his tame shot comfortably.
Undeterred by Fernandes’ penalty failure, United kept pressing for the go-ahead goal. In the 14th minute Gararcho dashed down the wing and in behind Cucurella and pulled the trigger, but his shot was blocked by the busy Sanchez. Caicedo then fed Mudryk, allowing Chelsea to immediately counter, but the winger’s pass towards Jackson was awful and was easily cut out by Luke Shaw. Chelsea was unable to get a foothold on the game in the first 20 minutes with the former Brighton goalkeeper making four big saves, while his opposite number rarely featured in the game.
The chances came quick and fast, and Chelsea's fragile defense was eventually breached when McTominay tucked in a left-footed volley from Maguire’s shot that was blocked in the box. Manchester United certainly responded well to Saturday’s limped display at St. James Park..
They were perhaps a little vulnerable at the back with their main defensive duo Martinez and Varane out, but their relentless attacks seemingly took Chelsea by surprise. In the 32nd minute Chelsea continued to struggle with and without the ball as Sanchez passed the ball straight to Antony. McTominay’s shot was blocked by Silva, but the constant pressure of the United’s men saw them regain possession quickly and forced another shot which Sanchez turned around the post for a corner.
Immediately after that predatory attack, Sanchez was called into action again in the 33rd minute, this time making an incredible double save from a McTominay’s powerful header and the follow up. Those who were in attendance were served up a treat and should have celebrated far more goals than they did up to that point. In the 34th minute Chelsea should have been level despite been permanently on the backfoot, which meant there was space for them to exploit when they counter. Sterling and Jackson got in together, yet another slack pass from Sterling and a poor first touch from Jackson allowed Onana to smother the subsequent shot.
Chelsea quickly came alive from a few narrow chances as the game was wide open like a can of beans. They were, however, duly rewarded in the 46th minute just before the break with a wonderful, precise Palmer finish. He swiveled across the backline and delayed his shot before leaving Onana scrambling as he clutched air from Palmer’s pinpoint effort into the far-right bottom corner to make it 1-1. The first half petered out to a grinding close as both teams played out an additional eight-minute extra time which was added due to injuries to McTominay and the faulty official equipment.
There was nothing to split the two teams on the scoreline at the break, although United dominated. They should have led when Fernandes had a penalty saved by Sanchez. They eventually went ahead through McTominay. Though Chelsea was hapless in defense they managed to pull back one courtesy of Palmer. The former Manchester City man scored yet again against a Manchester club.
The second half was no less entertaining than the first and it was Chelsea on the front in the 51st minute as Levi Colwill flicked the ball on from Mudryk’s corner, and Jackson who was atrociously wasteful in the first half headed over the bar from within 6-yard box. The forward appeared to have shoved Dalot, his marker, but no foul was given, so it went down as a glaring miss.
Manchester United did not display the same zip as in the first half. Chelsea had marginally more of the possession, although a lot of it was within their own half, where they were under constant pressure. The jubilant fans cheered in unison as United went on the hunt for the go-ahead goal.
It was McTominay again who came up trumps for the ‘Red Devils’ in the 70th minute as he powered home a sumptuous lofty cross from Garnacho to make it 2-1. VAR was called into play to check on a possible foul on Colwill. But VAR decided he went down far too easily and awarded United the goal.
Moments later Sanchez who made at least 8 big saves passed the ball straight to Antony, and he delicately slipped in McTominay for his hattrick, but the two-goal midfielder could not adjust his feet quickly enough before poking it wide. Chelsea’s manager Mauricio Pochettino shuffled the pack and brought on Broja to replaced wide man Murdryk and went two upfront.
In the 83rd minute Sterling attempted to get by Dalot but was brought down midway to United’s half. The subsequent free kick summed up Chelsea’s performance. James tried to tee up Fernandes for an optimistic shot but overhit the pass and allowed Antony to block from barely a yard out.
Pochettino’s move nearly paid off in the 90th minute as James dinked one in towards the back post but substitute Broja’s powerful header bounced away of the upright. Eric Ten Hag sensed danger and sacrificed Garnacho for the experience and defensive nous of Evans in the closing stages. Garnacho who up to that point, was United’s standout performer with eight shots, three big chances and an assist. As the four minutes elapsed the referee pulled the plug on the game leaving the disappointed visitors still searching for consistency, as they remain 10th and play Everton next Sunday. Three well deserved points lifted Manchester United back into 6th position ahead of Saturdays clash with Bournemouth.