Manchester United closed in on the Champions League places with victory over Chelsea as Frank Lampard’s side were left with a sense of injustice after contentious video assistant referee decisions went against them.
United closed to within three points of Chelsea in fourth place with headed goals either side of the interval from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire at Stamford Bridge.
Martial glanced in Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross on the stroke of half-time before Manchester United captain Maguire powered in a header from Bruno Fernandes’ corner after 66 minutes.
Chelsea felt aggrieved as Maguire was fortunate to escape a red card for kicking Michy Batshuayi in the groin in the first half as they tangled on the touchline, despite the incident being examined by VAR.
And the review system denied them again when Chelsea thought substitute Kurt Zouma had made it 1-1. The goal was ruled out for a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on Brandon Williams, although replays showed United’s Fred put a hand in the back of Chelsea’s captain.
Chelsea’s frustration was complete when Olivier Giroud’s 76th-minute header was ruled out with his foot in an offside position as he moved to meet Mason Mount’s free-kick.
Being on the right side of the decisions helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United to complete their first league double over Chelsea since 1987/88.
This was not a glittering performance by any means from Manchester United but it can be satisfactorily filed under ‘job done’.
Make no mistake, VAR was United’s friend in two pivotal moments, with Maguire’s goal adding insult to injury as Chelsea felt – with understandable conviction – he should have been given a red card for kicking out at Batshuayi.
Where United had the decisive advantage over Chelsea was in front of goal, where they made the most of their rare opportunities with a clinical edge that was notably lacking in their opponents.
Martial was on the margins for most of the first half but showed his quality with an angled header beyond the grasp of Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero.
United sealed the important win when Maguire escaped the attentions of Antonio Rudiger to head home.
New boy Fernandes will have added to Solskjaer’s pleasure with some nice touches, including a free-kick against the post as well as creating Maguire’s goal before he was substituted to a loud ovation from the away end in the closing moments.
It puts them right back in contention for the top four, with only five points separating Everton in ninth place from Chelsea in fourth.
More to follow.