Premier League: Man United 2-1 Chelsea
Manchester United moves back up to second, Chelsea down to fifth
Manchester United defeated Premier League holders Chelsea Fc in front of 75,060 excited fans at Old Trafford on Sunday. Jesse Lingard's second-half goal gave Manchester United a 2-1 win over Chelsea, who had taken the lead through Willian but were pegged back by Romelu Lukaku who equalized less than 10 minutes later. Lukaku was named man of the match.
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
Man Utd goals: Romelu Lukaku 39, Jesse Lingard 75
Chelsea goal: da Silva Willian 32
After Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho restored Paul Pogba to the starting line-up, United won 2-1 over Chelsea in a triumph for the Red Devil boss. The victory may be a turning point in the side's campaign for a top-four Premier League finish. However Chelsea boss Antonio Conte conceded "it won't be easy" for his side to finish in the top four of the Premier League after their loss at Old Trafford. The Blues slipped to fifth while Tottenham moved up into the Champions League places with a win at Crystal Palace. Spurs are two points clear of last season's champions with 10 games left in the season.
Chelsea got off to a powerful start as Willian's opening goal put the Blues in front at Old Trafford but goals from former Blues striker Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard moved United back up to second in the table. Chelsea's next match is against runaway Premier League leaders Man City this weekend. "There is this risk," said Conte. "We must be ready to be concentrated and to understand this target is an important target for us. In this league, getting a place in the Champions League is not simple," said Conte. "We are disappointed with the final result. We had a great chance to get three points against a competitor for a place in the Champions League, but in the end we are talking about another defeat. This country has the only championship where you can find six teams who start the season by fighting to win the title or getting a place in the Champions League."
Chelsea are still in the Last 16 of the Champions League tournament; drawing 1-1 with Barcelona in the first leg, and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Chelsea's Alvaro Morata had a late goal disallowed despite United defender Victor Lindelof appearing to be keeping Alvaro Morata onside. Referee Martin Atkinson had no access to a video assistant referee (VAR) as it is not being trialed in the Premier League. "We need to have this new system to help the referee and avoid big mistakes," said Conte about the VAR. "This type of situation can change the final result. For this reason, I am very positive about introducing VAR, especially in England." Spanish striker Morata was making his first start since suffering an injury in Chelsea's draw with Leicester six weeks ago. "He played for 90 minutes. Like the other players, he tried to give everything for the team. For sure he can improve a lot," added Conte.
Romelu Lukaku had already scored against his former clubs Everton and West Brom earlier this season. Lukaku's goal and assist were high points in his new Old Trafford career. After scoring the equalizer, he also provided the assist for Jesse Lingard's winner. Prior to Sunday, Lukaku featured in 10 games against the top 8 teams without scoring a single goal. Lukaku clearly enjoyed making a difference and with his confidence boosted he can use Sunday's goal as a catalyst for future success. United's victory lifted them back above arch-rivals Liverpool into the second spot again and opened up a six-point gap to Chelsea in fifth. United did not even score a single goal in their away games away to Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea. United beat Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford.
Willian opened the scoring by easily cutting through the Man United defense and blasting beyond superstar goalie David de Gea. Mourinho said after the victory that his side showed great spirit and organization to beat Chelsea. After the equalizer, Anthony Martial was substituted in favor of Lingard. United turned the game around. It was a controlled performance that showed Mourinho's methods work. Ahead for United is a daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium to battle in the FA Cup, and a Champions League second leg against Sevilla. Scott McTominay's presence alongside Nemanja Matic with Paul Pogba ahead of them looks like a powerful midfield trio. After getting about an hour together in Seville in midweek, this was the first time that the three men had started a game alongside each other. Lately, Pogba's role in the United team has been a concern in big games. There are still three attacking players ahead of Pogba so the threat remains, especially now that Martial has been restored to the left with Alexis Sanchez given freedom to get closer to Lukaku.
McTominay is not expected to play every game. Mourinho has been clear about that. But beating the reigning Premier League champions will reassure many that this is a system that can succeed. There is a challenge ahead for United to secure a top-four EPL finish and the cups could go either way. Jose Mourinho hailed the performance of striker Romelu Lukaku after he scored one and created the other in a 2-1 Premier League win against former club Chelsea on Sunday. Lukaku playing a decisive role and scoring a confidence building winner was all that Mourinho could have hoped for at this point in the season with the hard matches ahead, and may prove a turning point at this key phase of the season. After Willian gave the Blues the lead at Old Trafford, Lukaku hauled United level by slotting in from close range with help from Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial. Lukaku then crossed for substitute Jesse Lingard to head in the winner for United, capping an all-action display with a powerful driving run to release pressure in added time. The goal was Lukaku's first against a top-eight Premier League club this season, taking the Belgian international to 22 strikes in all competitions since joining United from Everton. "He played fantastically well. At first he didn't find the right timing and lost the ball at times," Mourinho said post-match. "But then he went together with the team and finished the game and people go home with the image of the run where he could have gone and got a goal. It was important for us to open the gap."
With the win against Chelsea, United cut the advantage rivals Man City hold at the top of the Premier League Table to 13 points, with Mourinho's men now six clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the battle for Champions League qualification. Mourinho felt his side delivered a high-class performance against his old employers, where the Portuguese manager won three England Premier League titles in two terms at Stamford Bridge. "We want always the perfection. We are always the best when we have the pen and paper, but sometimes on the pitch it was different," Mourinho said. "The work of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic was exceptional. We needed Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez to give us some balance in front of them. The players needed some time to adapt but I am really happy because from then they were intelligent. They understood the change of Lingard and Eric Bailly, when they brought on Olivier Giroud. I am very happy and a great attitude as well. We have four important matches at home and today was a good start. You can only win against the top teams with that humble attitude. It can happen, the attitude has to be really special and the players showed that. The beginning of the game was blue, we took some time to adapt to some new positions on the pitch, the players in the midfield took some time to press N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater, but we found that balance. In the second half we were solid, we didn't create a lot of chances as against Chelsea that is not possible."
In the weeks prior to Sunday's match, Mourinho and Conte had exchanged hostile words. However, Jose Mourinho got the better of arch-rival Antonio Conte in the match. The two managers have had a fractious relationship since taking up their current posts, with the pair trading barbs on several different occasions. Notably, Mourinho previously criticized Conte for his touchline behavior and spoke of his "contempt" for the Italian, while the Chelsea boss called his rival a "little man". Although neither managed to antagonize the other in the build-up, all eyes were on Mourinho and Conte as United and Chelsea faced off at Old Trafford. There was little focus on their feud in the two managers' pre-match interviews, with Conte instead asked about the significance of starting Alvaro Morata in the attack. "Putting Eden Hazard on the wing, I think makes you more offensive," said Conte. "It's different playing Hazard as a number nine than to play with a number 10 with Hazard. You have to find the balance in every situation to understand the team you're playing and the game you want to play."
Before the start of the clash, Mourinho stressed the importance of avoiding individual errors. "In the first match last season it was a bad red card for us," Mourinho added. "A few months ago it was a bad defensive mistake so details can make a difference in games between very good players." Mourinho personally greeted many of the Chelsea football players in the tunnel as they waited to head out. Meanwhile, Conte waited on the touchline and subsequently shared a strong handshake with his rival. There was a controversial moment four minutes from the end of normal time, when Alvaro Morata steered Cesc Fabregas' pass into the net only to be flagged offside. Replays showed it was a close call, with Chris Smalling almost exactly level with the Chelsea striker. Conte believes the use of a video assistant referee, which has been trialed in cup games in England this season, would have made a difference. "I think the draw was the fair result for this game. But we are talking about a defeat and that's all," said Conte. "I must be honest, I didn't see the situation, but if you're telling me Alvaro Morata wasn't offside, I think VAR is very important, especially in England. There are a lot of moments in the game where there are things to super-check. We had to be more clinical. Instead, we kept the game open, and the opponent made us pay. Manchester United are a great team, and we must be disappointed, because I repeat today, we could have done better. We know there is a battle for the top four and it will be difficult to find a place in the Champions League."
Midfielder Danny Drinkwater felt Chelsea deserved at least a draw against his old club Man United. "We definitely deserved more; first half, we were dominant. The second half was more even, but we didn't deserve to lose that match, no way," said Drinkwater. "Obviously there are bits we can improve on. First of all, we can improve on not conceding, and scoring more goals, but football can sometimes go against you and today's one of those days. I didn't see Spurs' game, I was concentrated on ours, but it's down to us now. We have to get our results in order and hopefully, the other results will look after themselves." Before the start of the match, the two rival managers shook hands and Mourinho tried to place his hand on the back of Conte's head, but the Italian Chelsea boss turned around so quickly he managed to avoid the contact. United fans chanted Mourinho's name as he then headed towards the tunnel. The manager raised his hands in appreciation, before pointing to his players. Mourinho's feud with Conte was brought up in his post-match news conference. "The handshake doesn't need any words," Mourinho said. "That's what me and Antonio want to show to everyone. We are not two ordinary people in football. We have a history."
The handshake also came up in Conte's news conference. "I repeat, you wanted to see the handshake," said Conte. "Now I stop." Antonio Conte said his father instilled his famous touchline passion and he is not ready to change his animated touchline ways. Conte came face to face with Mourinho when Chelsea met Premier League rivals Manchester United on Sunday in the pair's first meeting since they engaged in an unseemly public row at the start of last month. Relations got worse after Mourinho referred to manager's who behaved like "clowns" on the touchline, and although he did not mention Conte by name, the Italian took those words to heart. The ex-Juventus boss spoke of how his father and former youth-team coach Cosimo instilled a passion within him and, in doing so, hinted at a possible reason why he reacted in such a volatile manner to Mourinho's perceived snipe. "My first owner, when I started to play football, it was my father. He was the owner, the coach, the kitman, the groundsman," Conte said. "I spent my life from the start on the pitch following the team of my father. For this reason, I have to thank him for this passion, for the passion I have for this sport."
Conte Sr commented after Chelsea's 4-1 defeat at Watford earlier this month. "My father watched the game against Watford and phoned me up and said, 'I didn't see you with the right anger, with the right passion'. He told me that," said Conte."I don't see what happens on the other bench, or what the other manager does," he added. "In that moment, I'm alone and there is the pitch, my players, the game. I don't see what happens because my focus is only on the pitch. It's great this, for me." Conte hinted he was not happy with Eden Hazard's performance after substituting the Belgium star in Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United. Hazard was brought off in the 74th minute of the contest at Old Trafford with the scores still locked at 1-1. United scored the winner shortly after with Jesse Lingard heading home a cross from Romelu Lukaku, who added an assist to the goal he netted to cancel out Willian's opener. Hazard had set up Willian for the Chelsea goal, but Conte hinted that star striker Hazard had failed to maintain his high standards in the second half and that his withdrawal was a tactical decision. "No Hazard is not injured, no," said Conte. "It was a tactical decision. You have to keep the same performance for 90 minutes, we didn't have a great balance, and every single player has to try to work with the ball, without the ball, otherwise we lose our balance. I think he'd finished his energy because the first half he ran a lot. The second half he started the same away, but when I see a player is a bit tired, my task is to find a different solution."
Conte started Alvaro Morata up front instead of going with Olivier Giroud or Hazard as a false nine as he did in the midweek Champions League draw against Barcelona. The Spain striker hit the crossbar and had a goal ruled out for offside. Explaining his decision, Conte said: "He played for 90 minutes, like the other players they tried to put everything in and give their all. For sure he can improve. I can take different decisions game by game. I took this decision to find the balance."
De Gea, Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez. Subs: Bailly, Mata, Lingard, Carrick, Rashford, Shaw, Joel Pereira.
Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Moses, Kante, Drinkwater, Alonso, Willian, Hazard, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Fabregas, Pedro, Giroud, Zappacosta, Cahill, Emerson.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Second place Man United need to win their upcoming big games. Ahead is a daunting trip to the Etihad Stadium and the prospect of an FA Cup run to come, as well as the Champions League second leg against Sevilla.
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