Manchester United defeated Chelsea 4-1 at Old Trafford to clinch its return to the Champions League for the next season.
Following a recent resurgence in form, Liverpool had reduced the distance between themselves and United in fourth place, the final Champions League qualification berth, to just three points, and needed a Chelsea victory to ensure the race went down to the wire.
But United added insult to injury by inflicting much more suffering on the Blues and their already troubled boss Frank Lampard. Lampard has had a harrowing return to management since taking over as caretaker manager in April, winning just one game and losing eight others.
Casemiro’s header from a free kick gave Erik ten Hag’s team the lead after just six minutes, giving them the perfect start to the game.
However, Chelsea began to come back and missed three excellent opportunities to tie the score through Mykhailo Mudryk, Kai Havertz, and Conor Gallagher. Those costly errors were made up for when Anthony Martial extended the lead just before halftime.
Before Joo Félix scored a late consolation goal, the first United had given up at home in more than 11 hours, Bruno Fernandes’ penalty and Marcus Rashford’s tap-in following a surrender in the Chelsea defense added gloss to the scoreline.
Ten Hag stated that it was “important” for United to return to European football’s top competition after the club barely qualified for this season’s Europa League with a sixth-place finish from the previous campaign.
The Dutchman said to Sky Sports after the game, “This club belongs in the Champions League.” “But the Premier League is a difficult competition; it’s not easy. It’s a huge accomplishment when you complete this because many teams (I believe seven or eight clubs) battle for the places.
“We wanted to win, and we displayed a winning mentality. Chelsea, as you can see, has exceptional players, and they also caused us issues, but we were quite effective on the counterattack. In the end, we scored four, but we should have scored more. To be quite honest, they also had a chance to score.
The club put in some outstanding performances during the season, but they still struggled with consistency, making ten Hag’s rebuild at United dependent on getting United into the Champions League.
With the allure of Champions League football, Ten Hag acknowledged that United still “have to work on the squad” this summer.
Keeping Marcus Rashford, whose contract expires at the end of next season, will be essential to the team’s success.
The English forward has had a career-best season, scoring 30 goals across all competitions, the most for a United player since Robin van Persie in 2012/13. According to Ten Hag, the club and Rashford are presently “working on” a new contract.
He remarked, “I have a good feeling about that. Marcus wants to stay, and we want him to stay, therefore we must come to a decision.
With the Carabao Cup already in its collection for this campaign, United has the opportunity to add to its collection this time around in the FA Cup final on Sunday, June 3.
After the club’s recent struggles, two trophies and participation in the Champions League would undoubtedly constitute a successful season. The team will also have the added incentive of preventing Manchester City from winning the treble and surpassing United’s feat from 1998–1999 should Pep Guardiola’s squad win the Champions League final.
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