Manchester United continued their charge for the Top 4 and blew the Premier League title race wide open as they beat Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday.

Manchester United climbed back to fifth in the Premier League table on Sunday, as they convincingly beat leaders Chelsea 2-0 at Old Trafford, in what was a largely unexpected result. Sunday’s match was the third meeting between the two sides this season, as Jose Mourinho managed a first win over his former club.

It didn’t take long for Manchester United to grab a foothold in the match as Marcus Rashford, starting in place of the rested Zlatan Ibrahimovic, calmly slotted the ball past Asmir Begovic after being released through on goal by Ander Herrera.

Manchester United retained control of large parts of the match thereafter, while Chelsea failed to create much. And the hosts were duly rewarded just minutes into the second half as Ander Herrera doubled the advantage for Manchester United through a deflected effort.

That goal ultimately put the match to bed, handing Manchester United a comfortable two-goal win over Chelsea – their first over the Blues in 13 attempts. The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the major talking points emerging in the aftermath of the match.

Mourinho Masterclass; Conte Outfoxed and Out Thought

As iterated earlier, this was the third meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea this season and Jose Mourinho had come at the wrong end of the result on both the previous occasions.

The first was a humiliating 4-0 loss at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture, while the latter was the FA Cup defeat by a solitary goal. Suffice to say, Mourinho would have been desperate to put things right and earn his first win against his former club as they came visiting on Sunday.

That is exactly what happened, and in some superb fashion. Mourinho chose to rest his team’s talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well Henrikh Mkhitaryan, preferring to start with the pace and directness of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford instead.

In addition to that was his masterstroke to mark each of Chelsea’s influential players out of the game. Darmian and Ander Herrera essentially acted as two defensive midfielders, marking Pedro and Eden Hazard, while Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini ghosted N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic.

As a result, the midfielders couldn’t rotate the ball as swiftly as they are accustomed to. The attacking trio had to often drop in deep, leading to chances coming in few and far between. Thus, it was not surprising that it was Manchester United who came out in the end as the deserved winners.

No Zlatan? No Problem

As talked about in the previous point, Mourinho shocked everyone when the team sheets were announced. That was because there were one or two notable absentees from the Manchester United starting eleven, the biggest of which was the big man Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish striker has been the team’s go-to man for goals this season, so it was understandable when the Manchester United supporters didn’t take the decision too kindly. However, in the end the decision turned out to be one of the many masterstrokes taken by Mourinho on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard were the furthermost players for Manchester United, and the duo ran incessantly towards the Chelsea back-three to provide them a test unlike any other this season.

Additionally, Ashley Young, who was surprisingly the Manchester United skipper, and Antonio Valencia pressed at Chelsea’s wing-backs to deny them the freedom to burst forward down the flanks- a key characteristic that Chelsea’s success has been built on this season.

Suffice to say, the decision worked as Marcus Rashford grabbed a deserved goal and took his chances to grab a couple more only to be denied by poor finishing. Lingard was another player who went under the radar but was one of the unheralded heroes for Manchester United on the evening.

Eden Hazard Neutralised

Talking of masterstrokes, the biggest of these was to nullify the threat posed by Eden Hazard. If Manchester United’s talisman was watching the action from the bench, Mourinho’s masterful decision to deploy Ander Herrera as Hazard’s shadow in the match ensured that Chelsea’s talisman was a spectator on the field.

Herrera was alongside Hazard all through the match, except two occasions (more on that later), and the Spanish midfielder worked his socks off to track the Chelsea winger all over the pitch and didn’t give him a single inch to exploit.

Whether it was dropping deep into his own half or tracking Hazard into Chelsea’s half, Herrera went everywhere with his man. Hazard, meanwhile, had no idea on dealing with Herrera, who just won’t leave his side.

As a result, Hazard could not affect the match for his side at all – one of the few occasions when the Belgian has failed to impact a game for Chelsea this season. In the end, it was unsurprising that Chelsea failed to find the back of the net after the end of the ninety minutes with their creative force unable to do much in the match.

Ander Herrera Produces The Most Complete Midfield Performance

Talking of Ander Herrera, his man-of-the-match performance was easily one of his best in a Manchester United shirt. Not only was he so astute defensively, turning in one of the most disciplined defensive performances as marker for Eden Hazard, but he also massively influenced the game in attack.

Herrera was directly involved in each of Manchester United’s goals on the evening, showing his creative side for the first as he threaded in a wonderful defence splitting through ball to Marcus Rashford, who made no mistake in converting that chance past Asmir Begovic.

Later on, in the second half, he bagged one goal for himself as he converted from a thumping effort that deflected from Kurt Zouma’s legs past Begovic to seal the match for Arsenal. A complete performance that ended with Herrera deservedly grabbing the player of the match.

Maybe, just maybe, he could even become the Player of the Season for Manchester United, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have a lot to say about that.

Title And Top 4 Race – Nothing Is Over Just Yet

Finally, the biggest talking point from the match is the biggest result from the match. The win for Manchester United means that there are just four points separating Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table.

Chelsea’s lead stood at 10 points at the beginning of April, but two losses in their last four games have meant that that gap is now cut down to a figure that puts Tottenham within reach of the leaders. Another slip-up and Mauricio Pochettino’s men will hold a genuine chance to clinch the title.

Meanwhile, the three points for Manchester United mean that they are still very much in the race to clinch a place in the Top 4, even though that fate may not be in their hands.

That all starts with two very difficult trips, first to Burnley and then Manchester City, and a win in the latter will close the gap to their city rivals to just one point, which would leave it all up for grabs heading into the final stage of this lengthy Premier League season.

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