86 min: The pair do combine and it gives rise to some Chelsea pressure, which ends with Morata seizing upon a Fabregas chip and beating De Gea … only to be flagged *just* offside. That was very tight.
85 min: What have Chelsea got left? Will Fabregas be able to dink one up to Giroud? He may get a chance to now as Matic takes a yellow for hauling Willian back in the middle.
82 min: Pedro puts a pass out of play, needlessly, and Conte has daggers for eyes. Forget the air of calm – he would hate to lose this. We get some on-pitch handbags in the meantime, Matic taking exception to a Rudiger challenge on Lingard.
81 min: Sanchez makes way for Bailly, now, in a move intended to hold onto what Mourinho has got. Disappointing afternoon for Sanchez really, but United won’t care if they grab the win. Drinkwater is replaced by Fabregas for Chelsea at the same time.
79 min: Willian tries to beat De Gea again at his near post but this time the goalkeeper dives to save. Then Lindelof’s clearance is charged down by Morata and for a moment Pedro is in, but Smalling is in to bail his colleague out! It’s a corner, and on comes Olivier Giroud for Moses. That comes to nothing but perhaps Chelsea will shift things up a gear now, because I think they’ve been punished for taking it down a notch or two.
Goal! Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (Lingard 75)
The substitute turns it right around! There isn’t a lot of obvious threat when Lukaku takes possession out on the right, far from goal and with defenders back. But Rudiger and Pedro don’t offer much challenge as he turns inside, improving his angle for a cross, and his left-foot ball in is perfect for Lingard – ahead of Sanchez – to meet with a flashing header past Courtois! Now Old Trafford is making some noise!
75 min: A clumsy Alonso challenge by the corner flag gives Young the chance to make something. He shows Sanchez and Lingard how it is done, but Christensen gets to the cross just ahead of Pogba.
73 min: Christensen takes a clobbering from Pogba and there’s a delay … but in the meantime we see Hazard, often bright today but perhaps suffering after taking a whack of his own from Valencia a few minutes back, replaced by Pedro.
72 min: We haven’t seen or heard much from either manager in this half. We are shaping up for a pretty tame outcome in all departments.
69 min: Chelsea respond and Valencia is booked for a foul in a threatening position on the left. Can they put something together now? Willian flashes in a low delivery … and De Gea does lose sight of it for a second, needing two attempts to gather.
67 min: Brilliant from both Lukaku and Courtois! Oh, that’s so much better. Lukaku twists in the air to take a chipped cross from the left and volleys towards goal with excellent technique – only for the goalkeeper to fingertip it over superbly!
66 min: United win a corner and this is a particularly dull spell so maybe … no, Lingard’s delivery is even worse than the earlier one by Sanchez. There has, let’s be clear, been very little quality shown out there today.
64 min: Yes, here is Lingard. He replaces the fairly decent Martial. I think Sanchez is lucky not to be the one hooked.
62 min: Half-hearted appeals for a United handball as Martial knocks it against – I think – Azpilicueta but that was never on. All told it’s been a slow start to the half with a couple of bursts of mild excitement. I think we’ll see Jesse Lingard soon, can he add something?
60 min: Willian, brimful of confidence, jinks inside and blazes miles off target with surely his worst shot of the week.
57 min: Unconvincing again from De Gea, who spills a speculative shot from Drinkwater – perhaps hindered by the bright sun – and is fortunate to see the ball cleared by a quick-reacting Valencia before Alonso can gobble up the rebound.
56 min: In it swings from Sanchez … and away it is headed at the near post. Sanchez has, a spot of good work in the move for the goal aside, been wasteful so far today and not quite on the pace.
55 min: Martial has a long-range dig blocked, amid a United attack of rather more intent than many we’ve seen today. They eventually win a flag kick …
53 min: Sanchez ignores an obvious ball to an open Valencia and instead loses possession, to groans.
51 min: United are playing a few yards higher up at the moment and pressing Chelsea as they try and play the ball out. It’s caused a couple of half-flutters but nothing more yet.
49 min: Martial combines well with Sanchez but rather fritters away what comes next. At the other end Morata nips in ahead of Smalling and seems to be away for a second … but he’s pushed a bit too far and wide, and by the time he checks back inside and shoots there are enough bodies around to block.
47 min: Pogba is pulled up for a foul – at least showing more fight there than in the buildup to Willian’s goal, when he completely failed to challenge for the ball before Chelsea countered.
Peeeeeep! We have a second half
United start it. What dramas await?
Interesting to note on United’s goal that Christensen takes a knock to the head in the buildup, thinks about staying down but gets up, carries on and isn’t quite in position. If he stays down, does that goal happen?
“Good to see Willian getting a bit of appreciation recently,” writes Woolie Madden. “Always rated him, but I feel he has gone somewhat underappreciated over the years. Shall we try for a Premier League outfield XI of underappreciated players who never seem to quite take the highest plaudits? As well as Willian, I’d put Heung-Min Son in there; Fernandinho too. Any other suggestions?”
I agree, although I think Son has now worked his way to a more exalted status and Willian is pretty much there now too. It has taken time.
“Stop me if this sounds ridiculous,” instructs David Wall. “But is it possible that United’s stodginess in recent weeks had been more due to their just being in a period of poor form rather than some anti football masterplan by Mourinho.
“At different times this season, all of the clubs challenging for the top four (City aside) have had periods where they have played great, and others where they have stank and faced calls for the manager’s head from fans claiming the are betraying the ethos of their respective clubs. United are just in their slump right now and it is exaggerated because Liverpool are in a really excellent spell.
“I understand that social media has changed the rules, and City have pushed things too this year, but didn’t we used to accept that individuals and teams could have periods of better and worse form without it bringing about the end of days?”
We did, and for what it’s worth I think your broader point is right.
Half-time: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea
Lukaku’s nicely-worked equaliser came at an important time for United, who have been the less impressive of these two teams. Willian scored a fine opener of his own, while Morata has hit the post and – at the other end – Sanchez missed a good chance. The managers have even had a bit of a chuckle together! Should be plenty more to enjoy in around 15 minutes, then.
45+1 min: We will see two added minutes of a half that has suddenly chirped up.
44 min: I should underline that United’s goal came from a very sharp interplay around the box. Perhaps this attacking shape can work after all! Now for a Willian free-kick, though, that is clipped towards Morata but ends up with De Gea.
41 min: Ooooh, Hazard almost gets a clear sight of goal after a quickly-taken free-kick but eventually enough defenders get back and the ball ends up with Alonso, who misses the target. This one has hotted up!
Goal! Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (Lukaku 39)
And that is, ahem, a response. Lukaku had not started this game well at all but is alive when Martial, receiving a sharp slide-rule Sanchez ball into the box, lays it off to him. He takes a touch and slides comfortably past Courtois from eight yards. I must admit I did not see that coming.
38 min: United have … errr … mounted no response whatsoever yet and if anything Chelsea seem more exuberant. “Your city is blue … just like London, your city is blue,” chant the Chelsea fans.
35 min: Alonso takes a cute ball from Hazard and for a second you think it calls for a crack of that sweet left peg, but he clearly doesn’t like the angle and works it onto his less sweet right, curling well wide.
34 min: Chelsea deserve that, for my money. It doesn’t seem to matter how attacking, on paper, United’s lineup is – it’s all invariably so stodgy.
Goal! Manchester United 0-1 Chelsea (Willian 32)
Now then! Willian heads away a Valencia cross in his own box and then, going for the ball again, comes away on the counter. He finds Hazard and then keeps on going, eventually receiving a perfect return pass from the Belgian, running clear on the right and lashing past De Gea! It’s at his near post and the goalkeeper may be disappointed, but Willian really hit that. What a rapier-like counter that was, and superb work from the in-form Willian in both boxes.
30 min: Pogba does beautifully to ease past Kante and what results – a foul that earns Kante a yellow card before his foe can get too far away – is never really in doubt.
Even allowing for that Sanchez chance, I find this broadly accurate.
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