Erik ten Hag delivers Champions League – now Man Utd must back him in transfer market
By James Ducker at Old Trafford
No one can be quite sure what the next few months hold for Manchester United but, equally, no one could accuse Erik ten Hag of not holding up his end of the bargain as the club enters a potentially defining period in its history.
Having ended United’s six-year wait for a trophy with Carabao Cup success in February, the Dutchman oversaw the club’s return to Champions League competition with a victory over Chelsea that expunged any need for a result against Fulham on Sunday, and what could have been a nervy final day.
If United can now go and dent Manchester City’s Treble bid by adding a second piece of silverware, and in the process preserve their status as the only English club to have won the big three in a single season, then it will have proved a very fruitful first season indeed at Old Trafford for Ten Hag.
As a starting point, they will have to be a lot better defensively at Wembley than they were here to pull that off – for all their threat going forward, this ludicrously open game could have finished 10-5. But what happens beyond that City game and into next season will hinge on the successful resolution of the ownership saga and a smart summer of trading in the transfer window, both in terms of incomings and outgoings.
At least with Champions League qualification secured – something the club failed to achieve in four of the previous nine seasons – Ten Hag has guaranteed a precious revenue stream and cemented one pivotal building block amid the wider uncertainty presented by the takeover.
And if Sir Jim Ratcliffe or Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani do take the reins, the manager will hope they do not prove as trigger happy and excitable as Todd Boehly has at Chelsea.
There are the makings of a very good team at United – but only the makings. Casemiro, who scored for the second game running to get the ball rolling and was influential in the second, scored by Anthony Martial, has been a key addition. Bruno Fernandes was everywhere once again and got on the scoresheet with a penalty. Marcus Rashford scored his 30th goal late on and, in doing so, became the first United player to reach that milestone since Robin van Persie a decade ago, which, incidentally, was when the club last won the League title.
Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw are stalwarts and Lisandro Martinez will be back for pre-season following the metatarsal injury that ended his campaign prematurely. Alejandro Garnacho, still only 18, has bags of potential. Antony has shown glimpses but may now be facing a spell on the sidelines after being substituted with what Ten Hag suggested was a "serious" injury.
Too many others need ousting, though, or are in the last-chance saloon. Jadon Sancho, for example, was a threat here but can he be trusted to deliver consistently next season? The reality is the squad still requires major surgery and it would be a profound disappointment to Ten Hag – and a source of great anger for fans – if a promising first season’s work is stunted over the course of a frustrating summer.
The delays in the takeover process are not a good sign and risk testing the manager’s patience, but there is still enough time as things stand.
More than anything, United require a centre-forward, although it is a toss-up over whose need in that particular department is greater: Ten Hag’s or Chelsea’s next manager in waiting. Chelsea were hopelessly disorganised, horribly erratic and beset by individual errors, and yet still managed to carve so many golden chances that they might have been 4-1 up in the first half, not 2-0 down at half-time and staring at an 11th defeat in 22 league matches since the turn of the year. Profligacy is terribly costly at this level, though.
The seeds of a brighter future were there in another enterprising, energetic display from Lewis Hall, Chelsea’s best player on the night and a persistent threat to United as a rampaging left-back. Two of Chelsea’s four excellent chances in that opening half were created by the 18-year-old, not least the first when he put the ball on a plate for Mykhaylo Mudryk to fluff his lines from close range.
He then crossed for Kai Havertz to head abysmally wide after a lung-busting run to get into a position to meet the ball. Whatever Havertz is, he is not a ruthless centre-forward who can be trusted to lead the line.
Frank Lampard gave youth its chance – Cesar Azpilicueta, at 33, was the oldest starting outfield player by a decade – but this was a torrid night for Trevoh Chalobah and, in particular, Wesley Fofana, who gave away the penalty and then gifted United their fourth goal with a sloppy pass.
Part of you asks how much crippled confidence is to blame; the rest wonders if some of these players are good enough for a club of Chelsea’s standing.
United, in fairness, were very much the poor relation of the established top six last season, even if the crisis gripping Chelsea this term has put those struggles into some perspective. But the way Ten Hag has brought some order to the chaos and apathy that was engulfing Old Trafford will encourage Chelsea that things can improve fairly quickly, even if no United fan is kidding themselves that their club have suddenly cracked it.
There is an awful lot of work to do – and get right – this summer and still so many questions that need answering.
Man Urd 4 Chelsea 1: as it happened
And finally ... here's Frank Lampard
We were the better football team in the first half. You feel a bit hard done by to be 2-0 down [but] is a sign of where we’re at. In the second half, individual defending moments, gifting opportunities, probably a sign of where we’re at. All season we don’t score goals enough. I get asked a lot why we play a back five: 'It’s a bit defensive.’ Some of the defending in the second half shows why we play a back five at times.
I’m disappointed with it. You have to be better than that. It’s the end of a long season, I’m not giving the players any excuses. You should play with pride and passion every time you play for this club.
Everyone says ‘you talk about standards, it’s like a casual statement’ but they are a fact. Maybe with the Manchester United team there is some experience at both ends of the pitch. Any team that wins has standards as a base because without them standards doesn’t matter.
If I'm honest collectively, it was glaringly short. Coming in you can see when a group is pushing each other and good things come. That momentum is not there.
Ten Hag wanders over for a stop and chat
You can see Chelsea had outstanding players and caused us problems but in counters we were really good. We scored four and we should have scored more, but to be honest they could score too.
Our organisation was better in the second half. They were open and you have to take advantage, to strike. Sunday is important because we can be third in the league. We need to keep focused and not get injuries.
Our team has a good spirit. We are [heading] in the right direction. We know we are still not where we want to be but if you want to be successful you have to be in the Champions League.
Next week is going to be big and huge and we will do everything in our power [to beat City and protect the Treble] It’s not going to be easy but we have a great opportunity to get that cup.
Bruno Fernandes does a walkie-talkie with Sky
It’s a decent season, not perfect because we want more. But we won a trophy and got the top four. Now it’s about finishing the league well, and going to the FA Cup and winning. The fans have been creating a great atmosphere for us. We know the fans are happy Liverpool are not there [in the top four]. The FA Cup final is about winning the trophy for us. We know if we win it we ruin the option for City of winning the Treble, but for us it is about getting another trophy.
How it stands
Full time: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 1
Could have ended 11-7 but Chelsea's finishing was terrible ... though not quite as bad as their defence.
Manchester United climb to third. Chelsea stay in 12th.
90+2 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 1
Chelsea are wide open and first Kepa saves at the near post from McTominay and then Rashford screws a shot wide via a deflection.
90 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 1
Garnacho almost catches Azpilicueta asleep.
Man Utd 4 Chelsea 1 (Joao Felix) Demonstrates his class with a 30-yard. jinking run, the ball under hisn immaculate control from halfway to the edge of the box, transferring his weight so sinuously Lindelof could not guess which way he would ultimately go. In the end he tacked to the right and then rifled a shot into the bottom left corner.
87 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 0
Casemiro closes off Loftus-Cheek and D Fofana. Playing between Lindelof and Varane now he shuts down both men with ease.
85 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 0
McTominay ⇢ Bruno Fernandes who does not depart before some elaborate armband ritual with De Gea. He receives a standing ovation.
83 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 0
Chelsea doze off again and allow Garnacho to chase a ball over the top, take it to the threshold of the box and shoot. Chalobah blocks it but the ball loops up off his aris' and on to the top of the bar.
81 min: Man Utd 4 Chelsea 0
Loftus-Cheek ⇢ Chukwuemeka
Ziyech ⇢ Gallagher
David Fofana ⇢ Madueke.
Manchester United 4 Chelsea 0 (Rashford) Wesley Fofana cost Chelsea £70 million as Todd Boehly went shopping at Harry Enfield's 'I Saw You Coming' emporium. Under no pressure in his box he decides to roll a pass across the face of goal to Chalobah who wasn't expecting it. Sancho intercepts and plays it back inside to Rashford whose first shot is saved by Kepa close in but the ball squirts under his body and Rashford hurdles the supine keeper to tap it into the empty net. That's goal No30 for Rashford in 2022-23, the first United player to 30 since Robin van Persie in 2012-13.
77 min: Man Utd 3 Chelsea 0
Some afters following the penalty between Malacia and Bruno Fernandes that Chelsea seemed keen to escalate, finally finding some teeth. Both are booked.
Manchester United 3 Chelsea 0 (Bruno Fernandes, pen) Bruno had nutmegged Fofana right on the whitewash of the penalty are and waltzed past. Fofana made a daft attempt to try to rectify the situation which could never have come off because Fernandes was shielding the ball by turning his body as he ran towards goal. Fofana's boot made the tamest of contact with the United captain's and over he went.
Fernandes waits for Kepa to commit and then rolls the penalty into the centre-ight of goal as soon as the keeper went the other way.
Manchester United penalty
For Fofana's foul on Bruno Fernandes.
71 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Double United substitution:
Garnacho ⇢ Martial
Fred ⇢ Eriksen.
69 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Gallagher tears between Varane and Wan-Bissake and dribbles into the box. Casemiro comes over to nick the ball away but it's not where he thought it would be and as both turned to try to retrieve it, Gallagher is caught in the mooey by accident. Down he goes, clutching his mouth. The ref waves play on.
67 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Havertz didn't seem pleased to be hooked. Maybe Pochettino will play him as an eight as he doesn't favour 10s or false nines.
65 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Joa Felix ⇢ Mudryk
Pulisic ⇢ Havertz.
63 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Madueke beats Malacia to head into the United box and then he stands on Casemiro's foot and falls over. No penalty.
61 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
United break quickly up the left and have Chelsea's centre-backs outnumbered after Madueke is dispossessed high up the pitch. Rashfordraces forward and plays in Bruno to shoot but he, like Sancho at the start of the half, decides to set up Rashford instead and lays the pass behind him. Cue a heartfelt groan.
59 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Hall brings the ball in from the corner after a short one-two and smashes a wobbling shot straight at De Gea who batters it away at the near post. Mudryk hacks at the rebound, scuffing it into the grass from where it spins erratically but ultimately towards De Gea.
57 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Rashford is limping but seems OK after a heavy fall. Malacia is booked for a professional foul to stop the game while Rashford was down. From the free-kick, Chelsea earn a corner.
55 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Mudryk's teasing cross from the left beats everyone in the penalty area as it whizzes throuygh the six-yard box. Wan-Bissaka heads away the follow-up, bent in from the right.
53 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Some penalty box pinball which starts with Wan-Bissaka's shot being blicked at close range and continues with Malacia's cross from the left beating Kepa but striking Eriksen on the body as it was behind him as he tried to turn it in from three yards. The excitement ends when Azpilicueta scrambles the ball away from the line to Casemiro 18-yards out and he smears his shot wide by about three feet.
50 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Better from Mudryk when he runs on to Hall's right-foot pass up the left wing. The Ukraine wide man cuts infield, evades three red shorts but takes it too far across to the right of the D from where he scuffs his shot back across goal and wide.
48 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Bruno Fernandes crashes a right-foot shot from 18 yards off the crossbar. The chance was made by Lindelof pressing high and blindsiding Gallagher to dispossess him. The Sweden centre-half took two strides forward then threaded a pass to Sancho on the right of the box. Sancho could have shot but instead surprised Chelsea with a short lay-off to his captain who should have scored but chose instead to try and knock the casing off the ball with a torpedo.
46 min: Man Utd 2 Chelsea 0
Half-time change for United: Malacia ⇢ Shaw.
United kick off attacking the Stretford End now. Varane's ball up the inside right for Wan-Bissaka is picked off by Hall and Gallagher but they cannot build a credible attack.
Not his day
Meanwhile his cousin Jamie Redknapp is grinning broadly during the onfield half-time chat when serenaded with 'Jamie Redknapp, he's a w-----' over and over again. Once a Liverpool player ...
Half-time: Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0
Chelsea have been the better side in all but finishing, their young midfielders and forwards combining well in the United half. But half the time when they were in great positions they messed up the final pass before the shot, the other half they messed up the finish. United have been clinical by comparison and Casemiro has made one and scored one.
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0 (Martial) Made by a marvellous Casemiro, no-look chip, almost a toe-poke over Chalobah on the left of the Chelsea defence. Sancho had made the run in behind, picks his head up and plays the perfect diagonal pass to isolate Kepa and serve it on a silver platter for Martial who calmly slots it in and raises his right hand to salute.
45+1 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
The first of six minutes of stoppage time (for Antony's injury) begins with yet another Chelsea chance. They should be over the hills and far away. For want of a nail = for want of a gold standard finisher. Fernandez slips a pass between Lindelof and Shaw for Gallagehr who opens his body and drags his shot wide of the far post.
Chelsea can't score but you could bet if United played like this at Wembley, City would be five up.
44 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Hall traps Madueke's cross on his chest and lest it fall to shoot ... into Wan-Bissaka. Momenst later Gallagher blazes over.
41 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Mudryk is making Todd Boehly look like King Midas in reverse. Chelsea have exposed Manchester United's weakness at defending the channels with cute diagonals and this time Havertz slices and dices Varane and Lindelof with a pass to the left of the D. But Mudryk's touch is so heavy from 18 yards out that he knocks the ball out for a goal-kick.
39min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Perhaps Fofana did step on the back of Fernandes's boot:
37 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Sancho receives a pass to the left of the D, slips it forward stylishly with the sole of the boot, using his studs to shake off Azpilicueta and open a path to goal but the Chelsea captain slides in and creates a barrier and his team-mates rally into the breach to block Sancho's shot when it finally comes.
35 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Bruno wants a penalty for what he claims is Fofana's trip on him but there's very little evidence, if any, discernible on the replay and VAR. much to his anger, backs Attwell's original judgment. He doesn't half make a meal of it, though.
33 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Blimey! Another golden opportunity for Chelsea after more fine work from Hall down the left. He opened his body to bend the perfect near-post cross into the six-yard box. Havertz made the run and dived at it but failed to twist his neck, ending up heading it towards the corner flag rather than glancing it the other way and on target. There's more than one way to head a football. Havertz was all brow and power. Needed a snide little eyebrow glancer.
31 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Chukwuemeka and Havertz work together to send Madueke down the right to cross. Casemiro clears.
29 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Rashford ⇢ Antony. Sancho switches to the right to accommodate United's top-scorer.
27 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Antony cannot go on. Ten Hag looks frustrated and concerned as he pats his winger's hand as he departs on a stretcher. Left ankle, I think, though he did stand up for a while before agreeing to be carried off.
24 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Antony is hurt and slams the floor with his hand after making a real hue and cry over a perfectly fair and in fact wonderfully crisp tackle from Chalobah. VAR says no further action required ... but there will be by the medics.
21 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Chelsea corner on the right after Azpilicueta receives treatment for an ankle injury. Madueke floats it deep but Manchester United after a moment of concern hook it clear.
19 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Antony and his mercurial left-foot threads a glorious pass in from the right for Martial to the left of the D. Like Mudryk at the other end, his first touch lets him doen and instead of sweeping it in, the ball bobbles off his boot and allows Azpilicueta to knock it back to Kepa.
17 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Casemiro somehow evades a yellow card when he slices through Chukwuemeka who gets up rubbing his sore ankle.
14 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Gallagher executes a perfect pratfall when about to shoot at the edge of the box. Old Trafford enjoys it greatly and even more so when Antony pelts down the right, cuts back on to his left and rifles a shot wide.
11 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Another chance for Chelsea as Havertz and Gallagher in tandem run up the centre-right before Gallagher peels to the left of the penalty spot. Gallagher takes up the ideal position for Havertz to slip it to him past Lindelof and he does get it through the centre-half but too far ahead of Gallagher who would otherwise have been one-on-one with De Gea.
9 min: Man Utd 1 Chelsea 0
Excellent work from Sancho gives Bruno Fernandes the opportunity to double United's lead when he hares down the inside left and then squares it but his captain can't trap it and ends up stabbing it inadvertently through to the keeper.
Manchester United 1 Chelsea 0 (Casemiro) After a VAR check, the goal stands. He stole between Havertz and Fofana at the near post to head in Eriksen's lovely free-kick from the left. He met it with such impeccable timing and force that Kepa had no chance.
6 min: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea should be leading. The increasingly impressive Hall is picked out on the left by Fernandez and Gallagher's good work infield. Hall pelts down the channel between Wan-Bissaka and Varane and squares it to Mudryk who needs a firm side-foot finish to beat De Gea from 12 yards but he scuffs it.
5 min: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea defend the corner well and counter with a raid up the right that ends with Chukwuemeka, on the right of a central midfield three, making De Gea backpedal as his shot whooshes over the bar.
3 min: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0
Casemiro mugs Gallagher and knocks it five yards up to Bruno Fernandes. He plays a one-two but the ball back to him isn't clean and a Chelsea ricochet gives him another chance. He hooks a pass to the left of the penalty spot for Sancho whose heavy touch allows Azpilicueta time to get back and block the delayed shot.
1 min: Man Utd 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea kick off, attacking the Stretford End. Thought it might be 4-1-4-1 for them but looks more like a 4-3-3. Fofana plays it back to Kepa who chips it up the left for Hall. His header back to Chalobah is miscontrolled by the centre-back but his team-mates help him out.
The teams are in the tunnel
Both sides in their home kits red/white/black plays blue/blue/white.
With an average age of 23 years and 238 days, this is Chelsea's youngest ever Premier League starting XI.
Ten Hag at the Sky podium
You don’t get a point, you have to deserve a point. But for me that can never be an approach for a game, you have to win a game, we want to play in our style, proactive and dynamic. We are in a really good position but we have to get the job done. We have to show a winning attitude and go for it There is a really positive vibe at Carrington, a top culture. [How to catch Manchester City?] We have to set higher standards and get better.
Lampard speaks to Sky
We’re playing for pride, playing for Chelsea. There's an opportunity for each individual, there’s a reason in the dressing room for everyone [to be motivated]. There’s a lot of pride at stake. It is a big squad and that has been challenging not just for me but all the managers who have been here. It's been a difficult balance this year and I’ve obviously come in at the back end of that. The squad size is something the club will address.
There are a lot of standards and basics that have dropped down a level here and that's what I'd say to the new manager. The basic level before you get to tactics needs to step up again.
And now for those of you watching in black and white
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Lindelof, Shaw; Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Martial.
Substitutes Butland, Dalot, Maguire, Malacia, Fred, McTominay, Garnacho, Rashford, Weghorst.
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, W Fofana, Chalobah, Hall; Fernandez, Gallagher; Madueke, Chukwuemeka, Mudryk; Havertz.
Substitutes Mendy, Silva, Pulisic, Felix, Loftus-Cheek, Ziyech, Koulibaly, D Fofana, Gilchrist.
Referee Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).
Chelsea switch to back four and make three changes
The Blues. 🔵@ParimatchGlobal | #MunChe pic.twitter.com/VdBnBKyBe3
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 25, 2023
Rashford returns – but only on the bench
🚨 TEAM NEWS 🚨
The Reds name an unchanged XI for #MUNCHE 👊#MUFC || #PL
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 25, 2023
Preview: Proving a point and London pride
Good evening and welcome to live coverage of Manchester United vs Chelsea, the final match of the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures of the 2022-23 season. That's a line one would only write at the end of a long season – or if we were paid by the word – but it does reflect a sense that the sparkle has gone and a general feeling of "let's get it over and done with".
There are of course, still momentous consequences at stake at the bottom of the table. Here, though, Manchester United can wrap up qualification for the Champions League with a point here or, indeed, against Fulham on Sunday good enough to hold Liverpool's late charge off.
For Chelsea, who have not won at Old Trafford since a 1-0 victory May 2012-13 when Sir Alex Ferguson's team were on their victory lap for his (and their) last title, a fortnight after they had won it, only capital pride is at stake. Currently 12th, they cannot affect their worst position in the west London pecking order, finishing third (behind Fulham and Brentford) for the first time since 1982-83. But a point or a victory would take them above Crystal Palace into the London top five going into Sunday, thus avoiding their worst finish among their neighbours since 1988-89 when they won Division Two but finished behind Arsenal. Spurs, QPR, Millwall, Wimbledon, Charlton and West Ham.
I know they consider themselves a global club now but losing face in your own city, losing your connection with your location, is the road to ruin. Frank Lampard, however, drawing to the end of his second spell as Chelsea manager with a record so far of P7 W1 D1 L5 in the league, did not sound particularly confident of getting anything from Old Trafford. His whole pitch to his players seemed to be based on Chris Sutton's go-to line: "You're better than that." He's obviously hurt by what he has found there but he did sound especially downbeat in a pre-match interview, perhaps a hangover of being completely ignored and swamped by City's title party on Sunday after Chelsea's defeat at the Etihad.
"It's a challenge for them ... but they have a chance to show that they are a talented group," he said. He is right. They have talent but no structure, no patterns of passing, no positional discipline, no confidence and no proper goalscoring threat to rattle opponents' defences. They have to work very hard to score and, it seems to me, have always had to since they sold Diego Costa. It's like threading a needle rather than blowing the doors off. Nonetheless, as Lampard says, they have talent in abundance and a more sane squad next season could make rapid progress.
Marcus Rashford is expected to have recovered from illness which kept him out of the last two games to be involved tonight but Manchester United's long-term casualty list remain sidelined: Lisandro Martinez, Tom Heaton, Donny van de Beek, Marcel Sabitzer and poor old Phil Jones.
For Chelsea Benoit Badiashile joins the absentees: Mason Mount, Marc Cucurella, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, N'Golo Kante and Armando Broja. But Joao Felix and Kalidou Koulibaly are fit to start.