Open And Shut Case: Man United Midfielder Inspires Champions League Qualification

The Brazil international scored United's opener and had a hand in their second goal against Chelsea
21:57, 25 May 2023

Manchester United will be playing Champions League football next season, after beating Chelsea 4-1. The Red Devils return to the competition after a season away and despite suffering patchy form since beating Newcastle United to win the Carabao Cup in February. The Casemiro-inspired victory takes the heat off United’s final day clash with Fulham, as they now cannot be dislodged from a position in the top four.

Chelsea had a couple of early chances to take the play away from their top four-chasing opponents. A Victor Lindelof slip allowed Carney Chukwuemeka to unleash a shot that went close. Impressive youngster Lewis Hall squared for Mykhailo Mudryk, who took time out from upsetting gym influencers to fluff his shot wide.


When the goal came it was the home side who were responsible. A fine Christian Eriksen free kick allowed Casemiro to nod in his second headed goal against Chelsea this season. It was a well-worked set piece, though Wesley Fofana could have done more to discourage the Brazilian’s unencumbered flight to the ball.

Much of the rest of the half played out with a distinct lack of quality. A heavy touch did for Bruno Fernandes when Jadon Sancho slotted him in. Antony’s clever through-ball to Anthony Martial met the same fate while Kai Havertz headed a gilt-edged chance wide at the other end. Conor Gallagher’s miss from an Enzo Fernandez delivery was also unforgivable., as the midfielder snatched at his shot.

Antony appeared to suffer a serious injury from a meaty Trevoh Chalobah challenge. The defender escaped without punishment but Antony was unable to leave the pitch under his own power, being stretchered off and replaced by Marcus Rashford. From the ex-Ajax man’s reaction, don’t expect to see him lining up at Wembley Stadium next month.

After a scrappy half it was another moment of genius from Casemiro that doubled United’s lead. A sublime chipped pass found Sancho in acres of space in the Chelsea box. All he had to do was square to Martial who fired gratefully into an empty net. United had not exactly dominated the first half, but their slightly better finishing separated the sides at half time.

The second half kicked off with Tyrell Malacia coming on for Luke Shaw, who was carrying a back injury. The half also nearly kicked off with a United goal, as Lindelof’s run and Rashford’s pull-back saw Fernandes slam shit shot off Kepa’s bar. It was a slick, inventive move that only lacked a net-rippling conclusion.

The Red Devils went close again when Malacia fired a cross in. A deflection took it just behind Eriksen and the reduced power on his shot gave Kepa the time to make a good save. Casemiro had an attempt from the rebound but his own effort went narrowly wide. Despite their lead, the opening minutes of the second half were United’s most sustained and dangerous attacking moments so far.

David De Gea finally had some work to do when Hall and Mudryk both tested him. The former had a better attempt while the latter’s was held quite comfortably. Frank Lampard, once again frustrated at the lack of goalscoring threat from his team, brought on Joao Felix and Christian Pulisic to try and reshuffle his attack.

If there was ever a time to concede your first Premier League penalty of the season, doing so while 2-0 at Old trafford 70 minutes in is not it. But that’s exactly what Chelsea did as Fofana brought Fernandes down after a nutmeg. The Portugal international confidently stroked home his penalty, enraging Cesar Azpilicueta and his teammates in doing so. There was a little bit of afters as the Blue contingent took issue with Fernandes’ celebration but it was soon quelled as the game resumed.

Rashford was allowed to have it too easy as he netted United’s fourth. Fofana was left hanging out to dry before Kepa allowed the England striker a second bite of the cherry. The goal made Rashford the first United player in a decade to rack up 30 goals. The last was Robin van Persie, who lifted United’s last Premier League title at the end of that season.

United’s record of six consecutive Old Trafford clean sheets was snapped by Felix, who netted a well-taken late goal. Better than its status as a consolation suggests, the on-loan forward marauded through the United defence before slotting past De Gea. A reason to cheer, however hollow it must have felt, for the travelling Chelsea faithful.

Ultimately, Chelsea left it too late to show some fight. Rather than engaging in some pointless shoving after conceding a third, they should have battled a bit more passionately while the game was still in the balance. That lack of drive is something Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment should address. But United have a bright future to look forward to as well, as they prepare to retake their seat at European football’s top table. These two teams used to battle for titles and while that might be a little way off still, there are signs these giants could awake from their slumber someday soon.

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