Chelsea thrash Manchester United to win WSL title as Hayes bids farewell

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chelsea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chelsea</a> manager Emma Hayes celebrates with the trophy next to Millie Bright.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer</span>

The screams of delight from the departing Emma Hayes in her technical area, the roar and chest-thumping of the injured Sam Kerr sat high above the dugout, and the chaotic flailing arms from the jubilant pocket of fans in blue. Chelsea are Women’s Super League champions for a fifth time in a row having thrashed the FA Cup winners Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Those scenes came within 10 minutes. That’s all it took. In the end it was all a little anticlimactic, Chelsea’s two goals inside those eight minutes enough to give them an almost insurmountable four-goal advantage on goal difference over Manchester City. By half-time, despite City leading 1-0 at Aston Villa, Chelsea had doubled their tally and extended their advantage, going in four up – Sjoeke Nüsken and the utterly unplayable Mayra Ramírez adding to the latter’s opener and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd’s goal. Melanie Leupolz added a fifth after the break as they ran up the numbers and there was an emotional sixth from the departing record goalscorer Fran Kirby, but it wasn’t needed, with City limping to a 2-1 win.

Related: Manchester United 0-6 Chelsea: Blues win WSL title on final day – live reaction

We should have expected it to be this way. Once Arsenal’s dramatic late victory against City cracked the door ajar for Hayes’s side to come back into the race, after Chelsea’s earlier 4-3 defeat to Liverpool had handed their title rivals the advantage, there was little doubt they would do just that.

“I love the saying ‘when someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don’t need a third’”, Hayes said, after their 1-0 defeat of Tottenham on Wednesday, which followed an 8-0 win over Bristol City, meant the race would go down to the final day of the season with Chelsea and City level on 52 points, and Chelsea with a goal difference of 47 to City’s 45.

The contrast with City’s campaign end was stark. Handed the advantage by Liverpool, wins against Arsenal and Brighton would have delivered a second league title, their first coming in 2016. Instead, a first loss at home to Arsenal in seven years gifted the upper hand straight back to Chelsea.

Hayes made three changes to the side that edged past Tottenham. Colombian forward Ramírez was among them, returned to the starting XI after a spell out with a hamstring injury. For Marc Skinner there was only one change to the team that earned an emphatic 4-0 win against Tottenham last weekend to claim a first FA Cup title, with Melvine Malard replacing the injured Leah Galton.

The visiting side were rampant from the off with Ramírez at the heart of things. She opened the scoring in the second minute, heading in Guro Reiten’s cross from the left with some force. The players in red looked shocked by the frenetic energy of their opponents and the second arrived as just rewards, Rytting Kaneryd slotting coolly past Mary Earps into the far corner.

Two more goals followed in quick succession just before the break. First, Ramírez wrestled free of Millie Turner with ease before delivering for Nüsken at the back post to turn in. Then Ramírez had her second, shrugging off the challenge of Lisa Naalsund and driving forward before lashing past Earps.

Within two minutes of the restart Chelsea had a fifth, Reiten collecting the loose ball after it had skimmed the base of a post before pulling it back to be fired in by Leupolz. Kirby’s entry was met with warm applause and the fans in blue rose as she raced through one on one, slipping the ball past Earps before being engulfed by her teammates.

  • Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for 'The Guardian'.

  • If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.

  • In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.

  • Turn on sport notifications.

Chelsea were doing their job and running up the scoreline, but it wouldn’t be needed, Rachel Daly’s equaliser cancelling out Mary Fowler’s goal for City before Lauren Hemp put them ahead again. The final 20 minutes were celebratory, the Chelsea fans jumping at the Theatre of Dreams in front of the watching Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir Alex Ferguson. A chant of “Emma, what’s the score?” was met with the Chelsea boss holding up a hand and an extra thumb towards the fans to indicate six.

This was the send-off Hayes deserved, standing on the sideline, the images of her charges celebrating on her specially designed trainers being brought to life by the players on the pitch in front of her. She was always going to leave a winner.