Manchester United secured their place in next season’s Champions League with a game of the Premier League campaign remaining thanks to Thursday’s thumping 4-1 win over Chelsea.
Although Chelsea had plenty of chances in the opening 45 minutes, Casemiro and Anthony Martial scored at either end of the first half, before Bruno Fernandes scored from the penalty spot and Marcus Rashford notched his 30th goal of the season in all competitions. Chelsea substitute Joao Felix eventually found the net late on, but the game was already long gone.
Both teams had opportunities to break the deadlock even before the early goal. A better touch from Jadon Sancho could have put United in, while Mykhailo Mudryk fluffed his lines after a good run and cross from teenage left-back Lewis Hall.
Chelsea will be disappointed with how United did score, having allowed Casemiro to ghost through unchallenged in the middle of the box to meet an in-swinging Christian Eriksen free-kick with his head. There was a brief hold to check it for offside, but the VAR decision let the goal stand.
A miscommunication between Conor Gallagher and Kai Havertz saw the latter fail to find the former in front of goal in a promising Chelsea counter not long after, while that piece of quality was also lacking for Martial when a heavy touch resulted in a three-on-one break crumbling.
A real concern from a United perspective was the lengthy treatment for Antony, who seemed to hurt his ankle in a challenge by Trevoh Chalobah. The Brazilian was eventually stretchered off and his season could well be over, including next month’s FA Cup final.
Chelsea’s best chances were still coming from 18-year-old Hall, who put another exquisite cross into the box from the left that was inexplicably headed well wide by Havertz. In truth, a better team than Chelsea would have revelled in the space that United were allowing them and another opportunity for Gallagher went begging right before half-time.
The visitors had been the better team since United scored, yet they were made to regret not making that dominance count even more when Martial made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time. It was made by Casemiro’s no-look chip to Sancho, who found United’s number nine for a tap-in.
United picked up where they left off after the restart when Fernandes hit the angle of post and bar. They also should have scored a third when Kepa Arrizabalaga somehow clawed out a goal-bound touch from Eriksen, who couldn’t get proper contact with a cross that was slightly behind him. On the follow-up from the edge of the box, Casemiro sent a measured shot just wide.
At the other end, two David de Gea saves in quick succession then kept Chelsea at bay, first a parry from a powerful Hall drive and then a diving catch after Mudryk’s shot had been deflected.
Chelsea’s season had kind of been summed by the goals they had already conceded already, but none more so than the penalty conceded by Wesley Fofana. The £75m centre-back was rash when he was nutmegged by Fernandes in the box, swiping a lazy leg at the United captain, who then promptly got up to comfortably convert from 12 yards.
Those in blue had fallen apart by the closing stages. Fofana, poor for the first goal and woeful for the third, was atrocious for the fourth. He gave the ball away to Fernandes with a dreadful pass on the edge of his own area and was beaten by Rashford, whose first shot was saved by Kepa. But the United man made no mistake with the rebound.
A deflected Alejandro Garnacho shot hit the bar as the home side went for a fifth, while the teenager also forced Kepa into a smart save just as the clock ticked into stoppage time. In between, Chelsea did pull one back, and a fine goal it was from Felix, who showcased the kind of quality off the bench that none of his teammates could by driving from midfield with the ball and then unleashing a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
GK: David de Gea – 6/10 – A couple of saves one after the other around the hour mark were impressive, coming at an important time as United went on to build more of a lead.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6/10 – Won the battle with Mudryk and later Pulisic.
CB: Raphael Varane – 6/10 – Chelsea did miss a lot of chances and fail to take advantage of the space they were afforded, but the Frenchman was still pretty comfortable.
CB: Victor Lindelof – 6/10 – Didn’t miss a step in his passing.
LB: Luke Shaw – 6/10 – Brought off at half-time with United cruising.
CM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Scored against Chelsea for the second time this season with another bullet header, before making the second second and going close on another occasion.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 7/10 – Registered an assist for landing a free-kick on Casemiro’s head. This isn’t the right role for him and his weakness in a double pivot showed in open play.
RM: Antony – N/A – Stretchered off in what appeared to be a lot of pain.
AM: Bruno Fernandes (c) – 8/10 – Hit the woodwork early in the second half and eventually got his goal by winning and converting a penalty.
LM: Jadon Sancho – 7/10 – Made a really smart run to set up the crucial second goal and his cross was perfectly composed.
ST: Anthony Martial – 7/10 – Squandered a really good early chance, before showcasing a poacher’s instinct with his positioning to score United’s second goal.
SUB: Marcus Rashford (29′ for Antony) – 8/10
SUB: Tyrell Malacia (46′ for Shaw) – 7/10
SUB: Alejandro Garnacho (70′ for Martial) – 7/10
SUB: Fred (70′ for Eriksen) – 6/10
SUB: Scott McTominay (86′ for Fernandes) – N/A
Subs not used: Butland, Maguire, Dalot, Weghorst
Erik ten Hag – 8/10 – His team gave a much better all-round performance in the second half, suggesting whatever he said at half-time worked.
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 5/10 – Stopped United going 3-0 right after half-time. Hadn’t done much before then, despite conceding twice.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta (c) – 6/10 – Did well in the circumstances against much younger and faster players on the flanks. His teammates let him down.
CB: Wesley Fofana – 2/10 – Culpable when Casemiro scored for not putting pressure on and gave a away the penalty with a really lazy attempt at a tackle after being nutmegged. Yet his mistakes for the fourth goal were the worst of the whole lot.
CB: Trevoh Chalobah – 5/10 – Miles the better Chelsea centre-back, but that wasn’t hard.
LB: Lewis Hall – 6/10 – Got forward and put some really good crosses into the box, but he showed a lack of experience with poor tracking for United’s second goal.
CM: Carney Chukwuemeka – 6/10 – Passed well and put up decent stats, yet it didn’t feel like he particularly affected the game.
CM: Enzo Fernandez – 6/10 – Passed the ball a lot. Arguably could have done more given how open United were defensively at times.
CM: Conor Gallagher – 5/10 – Got forward in support of Havertz a few times, although things never quite clicked between them.
RW: Noni Madueke – 5/10 – He was on the pitch…
ST: Kai Havertz – 4/10 – Lacked quality in critical moments.
LW: Mykhailo Mudryk – 5/10 – Fast movement, but too often guilty of heavy touches when it really mattered and looks super low on confidence.
SUB: Joao Felix (64′ for Havertz) – 7/10
SUB: Christian Pulisic (64′ for Mudryk) – 5/10
SUB: David Datro Fofana (82′ for Gallagher) – N/A
SUB: Hakim Ziyech (82′ for Madueke) – N/A
SUB: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (82′ for Chukwuemeka) – N/A
Subs not used: Mendy, Silva, Koulibaly, Gilchrist
Frank Lampard – 4/10 – A better manager will get more from this squad. He isn’t it.