Chelsea vs Manchester United result: Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire blow open top-four race

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A game that enlivened the chase for the Champions League places, and summed it up. Manchester United here beat Chelsea 2-0 because they made the fewest errors in a poor quality game, inadvertently entertaining because of its poor quality. Whether you want to include the officials and VAR in that is open to debate, after a series of borderline decisions.

Either way, Harry Maguire stayed on the pitch when he might have been sent off to score the clincher. Before that, with the score at a mere 1-0, Antonio Rudiger had a goal disallowed for a Cesar Azpilicueta push when it seemed Fred was actually at fault.

Anthony Martial had admittedly set the tone, and the pattern, with the game’s true moment of real quality for that deft opening goal.

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Then again, the French forward may sum up this race too: so frustrating, where you often aren’t sure what they’re doing, all the more so because of the ability that is clearly there.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, meanwhile, adds another big-six game to his list of conquests, but this really wasn’t the commanding counter-attacking display we saw, say, against Manchester City away.


Ratings: Chelsea vs Man Utd





1/22 Willy Caballero 4

2/22 Reece James 5

3/22 Andreas Christensen 4

4/22 Antonio Rudiger 5

5/22 Cesar Azpilicueta 5

6/22 N’Golo Kante 6

7/22 Jorginho 6

8/22 Mateo Kovacic 7

9/22 Pedro 6

10/22 Michy Batshuayi 4

11/22 Willian 6

12/22 David de Gea 6

13/22 Eric Bailly 8

14/22 Harry Maguire 7

15/22 Luke Shaw 7

16/22 Aaron Wan-Bissaka 7

17/22 Brandon Willians 6

18/22 Fred 7

19/22 Nemanja Matic 6

20/22 Bruno Fernandes 7

21/22 Daniel James 5

22/22 Anthony Martial 7

1/22 Willy Caballero 4

2/22 Reece James 5

3/22 Andreas Christensen 4

4/22 Antonio Rudiger 5

5/22 Cesar Azpilicueta 5

6/22 N’Golo Kante 6

7/22 Jorginho 6

8/22 Mateo Kovacic 7

9/22 Pedro 6

10/22 Michy Batshuayi 4

11/22 Willian 6

12/22 David de Gea 6

13/22 Eric Bailly 8

14/22 Harry Maguire 7

15/22 Luke Shaw 7

16/22 Aaron Wan-Bissaka 7

17/22 Brandon Willians 6

18/22 Fred 7

19/22 Nemanja Matic 6

20/22 Bruno Fernandes 7

21/22 Daniel James 5

22/22 Anthony Martial 7

It was one where United played the percentages, and got lucky in key moments.

Chelsea were unlucky, but you wouldn’t exactly be sparing them there. It was instead another match that displayed issues in their set-up, and an ongoing naivety – both within the squad and, maybe chiefly, the manager.

Frank Lampard could perhaps do with that CAS ruling on Manchester City coming quickly more than anyone else, and the Champions League places being extended to fifth. His side are really just hanging on to that top-four place. It’s all the more frustrating given they don’t really hang on in games. They try to take command – but the grip is always so loose.

United don’t even try that. They don’t try much, which is why they’re still outside that top four despite another win like this.

United’s entire approach was based on a robust backline, but it might have been much less sturdier had that controversial first-half moment gone a different way.

With Maguire and Michy Batshuayi fighting for a ball going out of play, the centre-half fell to the ground. Batshuayi was momentarily looming over him, which led to Maguire’s leg jutting out and catching the Chelsea striker square in the groin.

The referee judged it was unintentional. That seemed fortunate. Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min had been sent off for similar against the same opposition, except that time to Antonio Rudiger. Batshuayi certainly didn’t look fortunate as he sat in pain on the sidelines.

It only momentarily disrupted the predictable pattern of the game, which was Chelsea penning United in and looking to pass their way through without much penetration, United hoping to catch them on the break That at once showed the general strengths and weaknesses of both sides, with the latter winning out as regards the quality of the game.

It so often felt like error ruled rather than execution – at least until the opening goal.

Martial’s header was all about execution. It was brilliant, the ball guided in at an angle rather than just powered. Aaron Wan-Bissaka got free on the right in one of United’s breaks, Cruyff-turned into more space, and then swung a fine ball for Martial to connect with He did more than connect. He controlled, so deftly.

It was a moment to win the match, which it pretty much did – albeit indirectly, and through a lot of turns and questionable decisions.

Substitute Kurt Zouma had actually done well to control his finish in the second half – only to be undone by the game’s next controversial moment. Cesar Azpilicueta had been adjudged of pushing Brandon Williams, and VAR ruled out the goal. There were questions, however, whether that only happened because Fred had pushed Azpilicueta. It had been that kind of night. It’s been that kind of run.

The problem for Chelsea was so many of their other chances fell to Batshuayi, who seemed so adept at finding the space just outside the post.

It was no surprise Lampard eventually hauled him for Olivier Giroud, or that the striker scored… or indeed that it was ruled out by another borderline offside decision.

Maguire had by then already plundered his own header to make it 2-0, the ball squirming in at the far post.

It felt like the moment the story of the game deserved – if not necessarily what the game or Chelsea deserved. A debatable decision, and potential error, leading to the clincher was all too fitting.

That is likely to be the story of this Champions League chase too. Someone is going to make the top four by default, simply by committing the fewest errors.

It might be only fitting if the City situation dictates that, mind, and a club actually still gets Champions League football by finishing outside the top four and actually failing in their objective.

It certainly feels that kind of season.

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