Scott McTominay the hero as Manchester United see off Chelsea
The Scotland international netted in either half.
Scott McTominay’s brace sealed a much-needed victory for Manchester United and their under-fire manager Erik ten Hag against Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea.
Wednesday’s Old Trafford encounter pitted together a pair of Premier League giants going through growing pains as they seek to become contenders again.
United were under extra pressure heading into the match following reports of player unhappiness with Ten Hag, whose side reacted with a spirited 2-1 victory.
McTominay was the hero as the Dutchman’s side deservedly overcame the Blues, whose manager Pochettino was considered his main rival for the United post when he was appointed.
The homegrown midfielder’s first goal came midway through a first half that began with Robert Sanchez saving a Bruno Fernandes penalty and ended with a fine leveller from former Manchester City midfielder Cole Palmer.
McTominay put the hosts back ahead with a powerful header and Chelsea substitute Armando Broja saw a late header hit the post as United bounced back from Saturday’s lifeless loss at Newcastle.
Ten Hag made four alterations from St James’ Park – with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial among those dropping to the bench – and was rewarded with a strong start.
Chelsea goalkeeper Sanchez did well to stop Rasmus Hojlund’s low early effort and produced another big save in the ninth minute.
Antony was caught by Enzo Fernandez when prodding the ball on, leading VAR David Coote to advise Chris Kavanagh to check the pitchside monitor.
The referee pointed to the spot after reviewing the incident, only for Fernandes to follow a stuttering run-up with a poor strike that Sanchez met with a strong hand down to his right.
Soon after Sofyan Amrabat was breathing a sigh of relief after Mykhailo Mudryk hit the foot of the post after his lax pass was cut out as play began to swing from end to end.
United’s defence was looking susceptible, but they were better than Chelsea in possession.
Sanchez denied Alejandro Garnacho and Antony before a close-range attempt from the latter was blocked, with the opening goal of this helter-skelter encounter arriving in the 19th minute.
Garnacho cut back for Harry Maguire to get away a shot that Marc Cucurella blocked, with McTominay controlling the loose ball and fizzing through skipper Levi Colwill’s legs and past Sanchez.
The Scotland international should have had a second in the 32nd minute, with Sanchez denying his six-yard header from Fernandes’ fine cross before stopping his follow-up.
But it was not all one-way traffic. Andre Onana spread himself well to stop Nicolas Jackson on the break, before the United goalkeeper watched Mudryk guide a low shot narrowly wide.
The Ukraine international should have done better there but helped the Blues equalise in the 45th minute, albeit Palmer deserves the credit instead of the man with the assist.
Palmer stretched to reach the ball, drove across the edge of the box under pressure from Victor Lindelof and made space to send a smart, low shot trickling back across into the far corner.
It was a gut punch nearly followed up moments into the second half after Mudryk’s corner was flicked on, with Jackson beating Diogo Dalot to head just over.
Garnacho bent just off target as United returned to the attack, with Antony’s effort taking a deflection wide for a corner that saw appeals for handball fall on deaf ears. The incident was reviewed by the VAR.
The hosts were in the ascendancy and Garnacho hooked a cross to the far post, where McTominay beat his man to head past Sanchez.
Colwill laid on the deck claiming a push that was checked by VAR but the goal was given the green light upon review.
United pushed for a quickfire third and McTominay mishit when presented with the chance for a hat-trick after Antony cut out a Sanchez ball.
Substitute Reece James got back to block Garnacho’s attempt from Onana’s long ball forwards, with the Argentina international going agonisingly close from turning in replacement Sergio Reguilon’s pass.
Chelsea made the home side sweat in the closing stages. There was a collective intake of breath when James went close to finding Fernandez and another when Broja’s header came back off the far post.