Manchester United sealed their return to the Champions League and continued their strong first campaign under Erik ten Hag after beating Chelsea 4-1.
2022/2023 Premier League
It was the last time United were beaten at home in a Premier League season that ends at home to Fulham on Sunday, however, and victory over Chelsea here confirmed that Ten Hag has indeed taken the club back into Europe’s elite.
That was his No.1 target when he arrived from Ajax last summer and United needed a point from these final two games to be sure of achieving it.
They did it at the first time of asking thanks largely again to Casemiro who scored for the second game in a row and then produced a moment of magic when Anthony Martial claimed the second.
Victory came a cost, however. Brazil winger Antony was stretchered off in the 28th minute after sustaining an injury to his right ankle in a challenge with Trevoh Chalobah and must now be a serious doubt for the FA Cup final against Manchester City in eight days’ time.
Despite the scoreline, if United play like this at Wembley then it could get ugly. Defence has been their bedrock this season: they are the lowest scorers in the top-six by some distance and this would have been their seventh clean sheet in a row in the league at Old Trafford but for a late consolation from Joao Felix.
But Chelsea were guilty of some horrible finishing and City will not be so charitable.
United wasted their fair share of chances too in a game strewn with errors. There have been some epic encounters between these two clubs down the years, and this wasn’t one of them.
For Chelsea, the end of a wretched season – and the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino – cannot come soon enough.
They were already guaranteed to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time in 27 years, and this set a new record of 16 defeats in a 38-game season. Caretaker boss Frank Lampard has now lost eight of his 10 games.
Ten Hag named an unchanged team, although Marcus Rashford was fit to return on the bench where he remained for less than half an hour before coming on to score the fourth.
‘I hope you are all prepared and ready to use your voices this evening because, as we welcome Frank Lampard and Chelsea to Old Trafford, we must all be fired up,’ the United boss wrote in his programme notes.
Lampard, meanwhile, faced a significantly tougher challenge rousing his troops after Sunday’s visit across town to Manchester City brought his seventh defeat in nine games in all competitions since taking over as interim manager last month.
He took the opportunity to rest Raheem Sterling and Thiago Silva, bringing Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke into what was Chelsea’s youngest-ever starting line-up in the Premier League at 23 years and 238 days.
‘This moment is difficult but you have to have pride to play against a really good team in a great arena to play football. Some days I wish I could still do that,’ Lampard lamented before kick-off.
Even a month short of his 45th birthday, Lampard would probably have done a better marking job than his players when United took a sixth-minute lead.
Christian Eriksen whipped over an excellent free kick from the left and Casemiro was able to breach the thin blue line too easily, strolling in between Wesley Fofana and Kai Havertz to nod past Kepa Arrizabalaga from close range.
Although wasn’t as spectacular as the overhead kick that proved decisive in Saturday’s win at Bournemouth, it was just as effective. VAR had a long look at it, of course, but the Brazilian was clearly onside.
For Chelsea, it seemed typical of their malaise. It was evident at the other end of the pitch when Mykhailo Mudryk made an awful hash of an early chance and again when Havertz had the simple task of squaring the ball to Conor Gallagher in front of goal but somehow over-hit the pass.
Antony managed to pick out Anthony Martial in a similar situation when United broke shortly afterwards, but the Frenchman’s lack of urgency allowed Cesar Azpilicueta to get back and make a goal-saving challenge – a point Bruno Fernandes didn’t hesitate to make to Martial.
United would have been punished for it had Chelsea not continued to be so wasteful in front of goal before half-time.
Havertz headed wide in front of goal from Lewis Hall’s cross and Enzo Fernandez sent Gallagher through but he pulled his shot wide of the far post.
United made the most of the let-off in the fifth of six minutes added on for Antony’s injury. Casemiro was pivotal in the goal again, dinking a lovely pass over the top of the Chelsea defence for Jadon Sancho. He controlled the ball and slid it to the back post where Martial was alive to Azpilicueta’s presence this time as he scored in an empty net.
Lampard’s expression when Stuart Attwell blew for half-time said it all. Chelsea had given as good as they got in an open first half but were going in two down.
Chances continued to go begging in the second half. Fernandes rattled the bar from 15 yards within two minutes of the restart and Eriksen couldn’t quite bundle the ball over the line from a couple of inches out.
Fernandes eventually got the third from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute after he was brought down by a careless challenge from Fofana. Rashford tapped in the fourth before substitute Felix rifled a late reply.
The misery will end for Chelsea at home to Newcastle on Sunday. This win lifts United above Eddie Howe’s side into third but it would be a surprise if Ten Hag risked further injuries for the Cup Final by going full-strength against Fulham. Only one game matters now.
0' The match is about to start!
6' GOAL! Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea (Casemiro)
19' Unbelievable! What a miss from Martial!
27' Injured! Antony is stretchered off
32' CHANCE! Havertz header over the bar
46' CLOSE! Gallagher’s shot wide out
47' OFF THE POST!
51' GOAL! Man Utd 2-0 Chelsea (Martial)
53' SAVE! Fine stop from world-class Kepa
73' Penalty Goal! Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea (Bruno Fernandes)
78' GOAL! Man Utd 4-0 Chelsea (Rashford)
89' GOAL! Man Utd 4-1 Chelsea (Felix)
Man Utd XI: De Gea, Eriksen, Casemiro, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw, Martial, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho, Wan-Bissaka, Antony
Subs: Maguire, J. Butland, Fred, Weghorst, Dalot, Rashford, McTominay, Tyrell Malacia, Alejandro Garnacho
Chelsea XI: Azpilicueta, Kepa, Trevoh Chalobah, Havertz, Conor Gallagher, Wesley Fofana, Noni Madueke, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Enzo Fernández, Carney Chukwuemeka, Lewis Hall
Subs: Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Ziyech, Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic, Felix, David Datro Fofana, Alfie Gilchrist