Manchester United locked up a spot in the top four with a 4-1 win over Chelsea on Thursday. It wasn’t always a game under their control, but they cooked up front and were rewarded on the scoresheet.
It’s the last visit to Old Trafford for Super Frank for now, but hopefully not the last as United rediscovered their goal scoring form against a Chelsea side that looks truly devoid of confidence.
Erik ten Hag rolled out the same starting XI that secured victory against Bournemouth last weekend, but the squad featured a key return in the form of Marcus Rashford. The Englishman had to return to action sooner than expected too, with Antony stretchered off around the half hour mark with an apparent ankle injury. The Brazilian was distraught with the injury, and it was a worrying sight with the FA Cup Final just over a week away.
By then of course United were already 1-0 up thanks to yet another Casemiro headed goal. The midfield maestro charged onto the end of an Eriksen set piece cross and beat the defense a bit too easily to head the ball past Kepa.
That did not set the tone for the rest of the match however. Chelsea found their way through United’s midfield far too easily, dominating possession in the process. Fortunately for the Reds, Chelsea also showed a total ineptitude in front of goal. Mykhalo Mudryk whiffed on a tap in opportunity right in front of goal, and Kai Havertz missed from a simila position on a header after Raphael Varane left him space as he mistimed an attempt to block a cross.
The run of play was against United, but it seemed that every counter attack was an opportunity to exploit space left behind and add to the lead.
And they did just that before halftime.
Jadon Sancho calmly controlled the ball after darting behind the defense, and set up Anthony Martial for a tap in as Kepa charged out. The keeper committed immediately to stopping the unmarked Sancho, and though the defense was closing on Martial the Frenchman only needed one touch to double the lead.
The second half saw a bit more pressure from Chelsea, but David De Gea only had to make a handful of simple saves. Alejandro Garnacho and Fred came on with a bit over 20 minutes to play and the dynamic appeared to shift in midfield. Chelsea were back under the cosh, and soon gave up a penalty, which Bruno Fernandes calmly converted for 3-0.
From then the contest was settled and the Blues looked like they had... well, the blues. It soon became 4-0 thanks to Marcus Rashford’s goal, his 30th in all competitions for the season. He’s been the talisman up front for United this season, and it was good to see him mark his return from injury in the grand manner.
Christian Pulisic charged into David De Gea like he was the door to the Capitol building on January 6th, but that was about as much action as Chelsea could produce in front of goal until Joao Felix came on and scored a bit too easily for a last minute consolation.
UEFA Champions League football secured next season, a job well done for a team that faced a lot of unceartainty this time last season, and even up through the start of the season looked to be set for a year of struggling through it. Erik ten Hag’s Reds are done with Thursday Night Football for now, and he can play the kids against Fulham on Sunday with the FA Cup Final coming up after that.