Manchester United sealed a vital 2-1 victory to move back into second place in the Premier League after substitute Jesse Lingard headed in his team’s winner against top-four rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils had fell behind after Willian started and finished a flowing move to give the visitors the lead in the first half, but United pulled level before the break, with striker Romelu Lukaku getting in front of Marcos Alonso to score against his former club for the first time.
Lukaku, facing the club he played for between 2011 and 2014, also had a flying volley superbly saved by Thibaut Courtois, but he registered himself in the game once more as he sets up Lingard to head home with 15 minutes left, after which Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside.
The Blues had also went close to taking the lead at Old Trafford after just four minutes, when Morata ran on to Alonso’s brilliant volleyed cross, but his shot hit the bar.
The defeat left the Blues in fifth place after Tottenham beat Crystal Palace 1-0 earlier on Sunday. Their run of just one win in their past four league matches, coupled with Spurs’ 10-game unbeaten streak, means they are out of the Champions League places with 10 games remaining.
Another match focus had been the coaches of both sides: Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Both entered the match after having fallen out because of a war of words earlier in the season, but they were seen shaking hands before and after and shared a smile during the game.
However, Conte, the Chelsea manager admitted that the defending Premier League champions might again finish outside the top four following defeat at Manchester United on Sunday.
“This could be our position, for sure,” he said. “In this league to find a place in Champions League is not simple. This is the risk – we must be ready to fight and be ready to understand this, to be concentrated and to understand that this target is an important target for us but it won’t be easy.”
On the other hand, Mourinho celebrated what he described as a crucial victory for his side.
“We start the game with three points difference with Chelsea and we could finish with the same points or six points difference and it was important for us to open that gap a little bit,” he said.
“I’m really happy, we had a great attitude too. We have four fantastic matches at home, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sevilla and Brighton knockout, and it’s a good way to start this run with a crucial victory, it gives us a little more confidence.”