Man Utd secured Champions League spot
Man Utd rose to third place and secured the final Champions League spot in the English Premier League this season after defeating Chelsea 4-1 in the rescheduled match of round 32. The top four teams in the league are now Man City, Arsenal, Newcastle, and Man Utd.
Man Utd only needed one point from their remaining two matches – the rescheduled match against Chelsea yesterday and an away game against Fulham in the final round on May 28th – to secure a place in the top 4. Erik Ten Hag’s team achieved even more by convincingly beating Chelsea and securing their goal of qualifying for the Champions League with a game to spare.
With an additional three points from the victory over Chelsea, Man Utd now have 72 points from 37 matches, the same as Liverpool, who are currently in fifth place with 66 points. Man Utd surpassed Liverpool and climbed to third place, pushing Newcastle – who secured a top 4 spot with 70 points after a draw against Leicester a few days ago – down to fourth place. On the final matchday on May 28th, while Man Utd will face Fulham, Newcastle will play against Chelsea.
In yesterday’s match at Old Trafford, Ten Hag fielded the same starting lineup as the 1-0 victory over Bournemouth last weekend. Marcus Rashford returned from injury but was only on the bench. Chelsea made three changes compared to their 0-1 defeat to Man City, with Carney Chukwuemeka, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Noni Madueke given the opportunity to play.
The away team started better and created two scoring opportunities in the early minutes. Chukwuemeka’s shot went wide after a pass from his teammate, and Mudryk missed a disappointing tap-in after a cross from Lewis Hall. However, from a free-kick on the left wing taken by Christian Eriksen, Casemiro headed in the opening goal for Man Utd.
Buoyed by the lead, Man Utd almost doubled their advantage when Antony unleashed a left-footed curling shot that went wide of the post. But shortly after, the Brazilian forward suffered a shin injury following a challenge from Trevoh Chalobah and was forced to leave the field early. Rashford received applause from the Old Trafford crowd as he came on as a substitute.
Chelsea wasted opportunities to equalize. They had a good position to meet a cross from Hall, but Kai Havertz’s header failed to find the target. A few minutes later, Conor Gallagher’s shot from inside the box only grazed the post.
The first half was extended by six minutes due to Antony’s injury. During this added time, Man Utd doubled their lead. Casemiro continued to shine with a through ball that allowed Jadon Sancho to beat the offside trap and pass across for Anthony Martial to tap the ball into an empty net.
Chelsea returned to the field after the halftime break sluggishly, while Man Utd applied pressure in search of more goals. Victor Lindelof’s high pressing created a golden opportunity for Bruno Fernandes, but the Portuguese midfielder’s powerful shot struck the crossbar.
In the 71st minute, shortly after coming on as a substitute, Alejandro Garnacho played a part in earning a penalty for Man Utd. His pass put Fernandes in a face-to-face duel with Wesley Fofana, and the Chelsea defender committed a foul in the penalty area under pressure. Fernandes himself deceived Kepa Arrizabalaga with the ensuing penalty to give Man Utd a 3-0 lead.
Chelsea seemed to lose all motivation to compete after conceding the third goal. Sancho intercepted Fofana’s cross in the penalty area, creating an opportunity for Rashford to bypass Kepa and score in his return from injury. Garnacho missed a chance to score the fifth goal for the home team as his curling shot hit Chalobah and deflected off the crossbar.
In the 89th minute, from a counterattack, Joao Felix dribbled from his own half before beating David De Gea with a low-angled shot. This goal only provided Chelsea with a partial consolation in their 22nd defeat across all competitions this season, the highest number of losses for Chelsea in a season since 1979.
Ten Hag became the fifth manager in history to guide Man Utd to a top-four finish in their first season in charge. The predecessors were John Bentley (1912-1913), Matt Busby (1946-1947), Ron Atkinson (1981-1982), and Louis Van Gaal (2014-2015). In the final round, the “Red Devils” will host Fulham before facing Man City in the FA Cup final on June 3rd. Chelsea will host Newcastle on May 28th.
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