By Simon Stone BBC Sport at Old Trafford
FOR the second time this season, Scott McTominay scored twice at Old Trafford to secure a precious victory for Manchester United and ease the pressure on manager Erik ten Hag.
The Scotland midfielder’s latest effort against Chelsea was not as thrilling as the two he scored in injury-time to beat Brentford in October.
But on a night when United contrived to waste a succession of chances – including a Bruno Fernandes penalty – amid a total of 28 shots, it was just as welcome.
McTominay’s first effort was an instinctive strike from 12 yards as the rebound from Harry Maguire’s blocked header bounced kindly for him.
Then, after Cole Palmer had levelled just before the break, McTominay stole in at the far post to power home Alejandro Garnacho’s cross 21 minutes from time.
He should have had a first career hat-trick after being set up by Antony but scuffed his finish into the ground.
In the end, it didn’t matter, as United survived late Chelsea pressure, including substitute Armando Broja heading against a post.
It was just over 15 years since these two met in a Champions League final, part of a seven-year period where one or the other ended up as Premier League title winners.
The bragging rights on this occasion only secured the hosts a move up to sixth spot, while the visitors remained 10th.
It also extended United’s recent dominance in these matches to 12 games, while Chelsea’s wait for an away win will now extend beyond 11 years.
Antony flatters to deceive
Antony gave an interview to one of United’s fan channels in the build-up to the game in which he complained about former players who have been critical of his performances.
The Brazilian, of course, did not sanction the £82m fee his club paid Ajax for him just over 15 months ago.
It does, however, make Antony the second most expensive player in the history of a club where defeats bring criticism. That admission came from current manager Ten Hag, who had endorsed the exclusion of four members of the media for his pre-match press conference.
United’s 19th-minute penalty underlined the issue.
When the ball was played to Antony, had he been confident with his right foot, he would have taken it into space and a shooting opportunity would have presented himself.
Instead, as he tends to do, he cut inside and into trouble. As it happened Chelsea midfielder Enzo Fernandez slid across his foot as he came to make a tackle and, while the incident was missed in real time, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) freeze-frame provided referee Chris Kavanagh with the evidence to overturn his decision.
Robert Sanchez’s save to his right was one of a number from Chelsea’s Spanish keeper.
Antony, Rasmus Hojlund and Garnacho were all denied in conventional fashion. Very much from the unorthodox – or lucky – variety was the double stop to repel McTominay.
The Scot’s point-blank header hit Sanchez and the rebound came straight back after striking the United midfielder, but again the Chelsea keeper was in the way.
Garnacho’s attempt at repeating his phenomenal volleyed goal at Everton was always destined to fail as more chances came and went.
By the time Marcus Rashford was introduced into the fray six minutes from time after being left out of the starting line-up for a Premier League or Champions League game for the first time this season other than due to illness or suspension, Ten Hag had reverted to containment mode.
Local boy Palmer on target
Chelsea forward Palmer was brought up close to Old Trafford in Wythenshawe.
His ties to the area are so strong he was a notable presence at a Sunday League cup final last spring.
Evidently, Palmer is far better than that level. He is also impatient given he opted to quit Manchester City for Chelsea this summer despite scoring the winner for Pep Guardiola’s side in the Uefa Super Cup.
He had already hurt his old club with a last-minute equaliser in the 4-4 epic at Stamford Bridge. On his first appearance at Old Trafford, Palmer cut on to his left foot on the edge of the area as the opening period drew to a close and squeezed a low shot between Victor Lindelof and Maguire and into the bottom corner.
It was his fifth goal for the Blues, but also his last decent opportunity.
Mykhailo Mudryk wasted two first-half chances and Fernandez failed to turn home Reece James’ cross inside the six-yard box as Chelsea suffered their sixth defeat of what is turning into another season of chronic inconsistency.
December 7, 2023 @ 6:58 GMT|Tags: