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Manchester United were given some hope last Friday. Their cross-city rivals Manchester City were smacked a two-year Champions League ban by UEFA. That potentially means that fifth place in the Premier League will qualify for the UCL this year.
But they needed to defeat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to move closer to that illustrious European spot. They managed to do so in compelling fashion with a 2-0 win.
In what was a cagey first-half, United took the lead at the 45th minute when Anthony Martial struck a sweet header in the half’s ONLY shot on target! Chelsea rallied back after the break and even saw a goal disallowed thanks to VAR, which pumped United with confidence.
Harry Maguire then doubled their lead in the 66th-minute by powering Bruno Fernandes’ corner into the net. The Blues were again denied by VAR in the 78th-minute as the Red Devils held on to complete their first league double over Chelsea in more than 30 years(!) and moving up to three points behind the fourth place.
Here are the Manchester United Player Ratings vs Chelsea.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (7.0) –
At first, it looked like Solskjaer was playing it way too defensive against a side who weren’t playing their strongest attacking players. But it ended up working wonders, as United gained a clean-sheet. Lady Luck smiled on OGS today, with United scoring from the little they created while Chelsea’s goals were both ruled out.
But his trust in Fernandes as his set-piece creator and encouraging Wan-Bissaka forward despite his struggles were repaid today. As did his trust in Martial’s ability inside the area. His amazing record against Chelsea continues as he manages something spectacular in their first Premier League-double over the Blues.
David de Gea (6.0) –
De Gea breathed a few sighs of relief in the first-half watching the Blues’ attempts skimmer wide. He was saved by VAR twice in the game, but barely had to make any significant saves. A pretty easy clean-sheet in the end, but his second-consecutive one in the league.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (7.5)-
Wan-Bissaka seems a bit confused on whom to mark here. Been caught out of position a few times in the first half-hour. Despite looking defensively shaky at the first-half, Wan-Bissaka was intent on proving his attacking credentials and superbly went past Willian before playing a terrific cross to assist Martial’s strike.
Improved defensively after the break, making a goal-saving challenge on Pedro. Showcased utmost willingness to move up & down the pitch and was equally effective on both ends to silence those doubting his work at the other end.
Harry Maguire (8.5) –
Harry looks much more comfortable dealing with Batshuayi than Abraham. Lucky to not be cautioned after he booted the Chelsea striker in the nuts around the 20th minute. He dominated Batshuayi after that, being indomitable in the air and making some solid interceptions with impressive game-reading.
But his shining moment came in the 66th when he emphatically powered a corner into the net to score his first PL goal for United. 9 clearances. 5 interceptions. 1 goal. An emphatic performance even the biggest United captain’s would be proud of.
Eric Bailly (7.5) –
Bailly’s first league start since last April! Showing signs of rustiness with sloppy distribution. Growing in confidence as the game progresses, making wild challenges. Denied Azpilicueta a scoring chance with a clutch clearance around 36th. Then denied Kovacic in the 73rd with an impeccable block to parry his shot away.
Despite his timely goofiness, Bailly was a marvel in defence. Showcased composure in moving the ball out from defence and made thumping clearances. Partnered Maguire really well and considering this was his first league appearance in almost a year, this was something special.
Luke Shaw (7.0)–
Shaw’s back playing in the makeshift central role. Justifying his selection in this area by creeping up in the right positions to make important clearances and frustrate his opponents. He covered for Williams really well and nullified Chelsea’s threat through that side. Worked hard to cover a lot of ground and helped seal another clean-sheet for his side.
Brandon Williams (5.5) –
Williams faces up against fellow young wonder Reece James. Allowed him to easily take a dangerous swipe at goal in the 6th minute. Again stands off to allow Willian’s attempt minutes later. He came second-best in the battle against James, often being outwitted as Chelsea focused moving through his side. Though ever-willing, but not so effective going forward either.
Fred (7.5) –
The Brazilian looks even more charged with energy after the break. Showed nice synergy with Fernandes before his 12th-minute swipe was blocked off. But he continued operating with a mad hound-like mentality, winning back possession with crunching challenges and instigating counter-attacks pretty well.
Fred took the fight to Chelsea with his uncompromised pressing and suffocated them in midfield. Should’ve gotten a late assist to cap off another dominant performance from the ever-improving midfielder.
Nemanja Matic (7.0)-
In his return to Stamford Bridge, Matic is moving around the ball efficiently. Using his physicality to his advantage in making numerous recoveries and frustrating his opposition midfielders. Showed admirable work-rate for his age, putting in a tireless display to protect his backline, stop Chelsea’s fast-breaks and secure a comfortable win in the end.
Bruno Fernandes (7.5) –
Fernandes’ first real taste of a big PL game. Played a beautiful one-two with Fred to allow him a shot on target in the 12th. Bolted a shot well wide after the half-hour mark. Played Martial through on goal for his 37th-minute opportunity. Saw his venomous 62nd-minute free-kick rattle the post but got his first PL assist when his brilliant corner 4 minutes later was met by Maguire.
Almost repeated the same routine in the 70th, but Maguire header was cleared. United have a reliable set-piece specialist again and Fernandes’ bright forward-passing today showed he’ll grow in influence in the coming games. Super outing for his first PL away game.
Daniel James (5.0) –
The Welshman looks refreshed after the break. Went behind the defenders in the 14th, but his cross met nobody. James worked his socks off with his relentless running trouble Chelsea at times, but again lacked that penetrativeness.
Anthony Martial (7.5) –
Martial netted twice in this ground last season. Looks more comfortable moving out wider than sticking centrally. Came alive in the 37th with a blistering forward run but his attempt went well wide. Just can’t seem to hold-up the ball today, getting dispossessed too many times.
After being frustrating throughout the half, he proves his class by out jumping Christensen & beautifully glancing a header into the net. He scores at the Bridge again! Stretched their defence with his movement but went quiet towards the end, forcing that late change.
Andreas Pereira (6.0) –
Added an extra body in midfield to help liquidate Chelsea’s effectiveness.
Odion Ighalo (N/R) –
Came on with minutes to spare and almost had a dream debut after Fred played him through on goal but struck his shot at Caballero.
Diogo Dalot (N/R) –
Helped United see out the game in the last few minutes.
Maguire gave his best performance in a United shirt this season, being an impenetrable rock in defence and scoring that crucial second goal. Proved today why he deserves the captain’s armband with leader’s performance. He’s my MOTM for today.