GOALS from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera have blown the title race wide open as Jose Mourinho’s side punished sloppy Chelsea.
Just four points separate the league leaders and Tottenham in second as United remain firmly in the hunt for a top four finish.
Chelsea’s pre-match preparations were thrown in disarray when Marcus Alonso pulled out of the warm up with Thibaut Courtois already sidelined.
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And it may have had an impact just seven minutes into the clash when the outstanding Rashford fired the Red Devils ahead in controversial fashion.
Nemanja Matic’s pass hit the arm of Herrera before the midfielder slotted a wonderful pass through to the striker who outpaced David Luiz before finishing past Asmir Begovic.
The away side struggled to find any rhythm in the opening 45 minutes and frustration mounted as Diego Costa was brandished a yellow card for a late challenge on Paul Pogba.
Chelsea’s only chance of the half came from Costa whose shot from distance flew harmlessly wide.
Antonio Conte had plenty of thinking to do at half-time but just three minutes into the second period the provider turned goalscorer when Herrera’s deflected shot flew past Begovic.
Half of Old Trafford were celebrating when Rashford’s thunderbolt clattered the side netting as United looked to put Chelsea to the sword.
The visitors dominated possession in the final 20 minutes as they looked desperate to find a way back into the game but United held firm to claim three crucial points.
Herrera handball? Ex-ref Mark Halsey’s view
REFEREE Robert Madley made the wrong decision when he failed to award a free-kick to Chelsea for deliberate handball by Manchester United’s Ander Herrera.
Herrera had his hands outstretched and in a unnatural position and he made a movement towards the ball.
Robert was in a great position and he’s seen the incident because he makes a crossed arms sign to communicate that he had made his own decision.
I can only assume he did not think it was deliberate.
But Robert got it wrong. United got away with that one.
Diego Costa and Marcos Rojo had a battle throughout the game. It was great to see the aggression but both players could have controlled themselves more.
Robert could have stamped his authority earlier in the game. In the end they got deserved cautions.
Gary Cahill was lucky not to get a red card for a high challenge on Marouane Fellaini. It was serious foul play and endangered the player’s safety.
He was fortunate to get a yellow card.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- This was undoubtedly United’s best performance since Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out of the club.
- There have been doubts over Marouane Fellaini but he was a hero yesterday breaking up Chelsea’s play.
- Ander Herrera was asked to stop Eden Hazard as he was in the Cup quarter-final defeat at Stamford Bridge.
- The Herrera ended up with a red card. In this game he not only stopped Hazard but created one goal and scored another.
- This was the first time Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been left out a United league line up when he has been available.
- Mourinho’s decision was born out of the tired final 20 minutes in Anderlecht from the Swede.
- He needed a rest and United needed a bit more pace and zip and Marcus Rashford supplied it with his goal and all round performance.
- Mourinho and Conte have clashed on the touchline this season but not yesterday.
- Mourinho made a point of not celebrating either goal in contrast to the antics of his opposite number in these contests.
- The handshake at the end was brief with no words exchanged. For Mourinho it was job very well done.
Next five fixtures
20 Apr – Anderlecht (H) –
EL 23 Apr – Burnley (A) –
PL 27 Apr – Man City (A) –
PL 30 Apr – Swansea (H) –
PL 7 May – Arsenal (A) – PL
22 Apr – Spurs (N) – FA Cup
25 Apr – Saints (H) – PL
30 Apr – Everton (A) – PL
8 May – Boro (H) – PL
12 May – West Brom (A) – PL
PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
WHAT THEY SAID
Man Utd boss Jose Mourinho: “Maybe we didn’t ‘rest’ players ahead of Thursday, we just chose the team we thought was the best team.
“Marcus Rashford played fantastically well. He had a very good game at Stamford Bridge in the cup, exactly the same chance to score, because he is faster than their defenders.
“Today he scored and it gave the team more confidence, more stability.”
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte: “They deserved to win, because they showed more desire than us, more motivation.
“In this case, the fault is the coach. It is mine. In this case I wasn’t able to do the right motivation.
“To play this type of game from now and until the end we must have great enthusiasm, great motivation to try to reach the target.
“I have concern because we have to work together and find quickly the right ambition to win this title – if someone thinks it’s normal for Chelsea to win the title, we started as underdogs after 10th place last season.”
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Man Utd: De Gea 6, Bailly 7, Rojo 7, Darmian 7, Valencia 7, Herrera 9, Fellaini 7, Pogba 7, Young 7 (Fosu-Mensah 93, 6) Rashford 8 (Ibrahimovic 83, 6) Lingard 6 (Carrick 60, 6)
Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Shaw, Mkhitaryan
Goals: Rashford (7) Herrera (49)
Booked: Herrera, Rojo, Ibrahimovic
Chelsea: Begovic 5, Cahill 6, Zouma 6 (Loftus-Cheek 83, 5) Luiz 6, Azpilicueta 6, Moses 6 (Fabregas 54, 6) Matic 6 (Willian 66, 6) Kante 7, Pedro 5, Hazard 6, Costa 5
Subs not used: Eduardo, Terry, Ake, Batshuayi
Booked: Costa, Cahill, Fabregas
STAR MAN: ANDER HERRERA