Manchester United completed a first-ever Premier League double over Chelsea as goals in each half from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire – and two interventions from VAR – sealed a vital 2-0 victory.
Martial headed home on the stroke of half-time before Maguire followed suit with a superb finish from a corner taken by the outstanding Bruno Fernandes. Fortune and indeed offside decisions were on the Reds’ side when VAR – twice – ruled that goals from Chelsea substitute Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud should be disallowed. It was a notable night for Odion Ighalo too who made his United debut and almost marked it with a goal late on.
Solskjaer made three changes to the side that drew with Wolves before the winter break with Eric Bailly, Brandon Williams and Nemanja Matic coming into the side as replacements for Victor Lindelof, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata.
For Bailly, it was a first start for 10 months following his return from injury. Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes experienced his first away game for the Reds and our other January arrival, loan signing Ighalo, was handed a spot on the bench. The United players donned black armbands in tribute to the late, great Harry Gregg whose passing was announced earlier in the day.
The Reds, who won brilliantly here in the Carabao Cup back in October, set about this Monday-night mission with gusto. United breathed a sigh of relief on six minutes however when Chelsea’s attacking full-back Reece James found a yard of space on the right side of the box and fired inches wide. At the other end, Fernandes, who was providing good support to Daniel James and Anthony Martial, brilliantly teed up Fred on the edge of the area but the Brazilian’s effort was deflected out for a corner.
Probably the best chance of the half for the hosts came after 26 minutes when substitute Mason Mount – on for the injured N’Golo Kante – crossed from the left, only for Michy Batshuayi to shoot wide as he looked to place an effort into the corner.
Fernandes continued to look lively for the Reds and after he had hit a decent 25-yarder wide from a corner, he supplied Martial with a superb pass that gave him the perfect sight of goal but the Frenchman dragged his low drive past the far post.
Martial made no mistake on the stroke of half-time however. Fred and Wan-Bissaka linked up well before the latter made space and curled in a right-wing cross which was brilliantly headed into the far corner by our no.9.
Batshuayi dragged an effort wide for the hosts seconds before the break with United going in a goal to the good.
The Reds began the second half well but United hearts were in mouths briefly on 56 minutes when substitute Zouma volleyed home what appeared to be an equaliser from a corner. Seconds earlier Wan-Bissaka had got a superb block in as Pedro took aim from close range, but from the resulting set piece, Zouma netted only for VAR to rightly rule that Azpilicueta had pushed Williams over in the box.
Ten minutes later, the Reds went up the other end and doubled the advantage. Having seen a brilliant free-kick fly back off the outside of the post, Fernandes then sent in an inviting corner which Maguire superbly rose to meet and power home. The skipper ran to celebrate with the away fans, clearly delighted to have got on the scoresheet with his head – something he had told us recently he was desperate to do.
The skipper rises to head home our second goal.
United were buoyant but also had reason to feel very relieved twice in the space of six minutes. On 73 minutes, Jorginho slipped a pass through to Mateo Kovacic who took aim but a long outstretched leg from Bailly, flying across the box, blocked the effort. Six minutes later, VAR intervened once more when Mount and Giroud combined, with the latter heading home the former’s cross. However, replays showed Giroud’s foot was marginally offside and the decision again was ‘no goal.’
Both sides went close to finding the net late on, with Mount curling a free-kick onto the outside of the box and United debutant Ighalo seeing a shot point-blank shot saved by Willy Caballero. Ultimately, the goals from Martial and Maguire proved to be enough as the Reds recorded another excellent Stamford Bridge triumph – the third under Solskjaer – and completed the club’s first league double over Chelsea since 1987/88.
Chelsea: Caballero, James, Christensen (Zouma 46), Rudiger, Azpilicueta (c), Kante (Mount 12) , Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Batshuayi (Giroud 68), Pedro.
Subs not used: Kepa, Tomori, Alonso, Barkle.
Booked: Willian, Rudiger, Zouma, Pedro
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire (c), Bailly, Shaw, Williams; Fred, Matic; B. Fernandes (Dalot 90), James (Andreas 80), Martial (Ighalo 90).
Subs not used: Romero, Jones, Mata, Greenwood.
Goals: Martial 45, Maguire 66
Booked: Fred, Williams, Wan-Bissaka.