We wanted to send a message - relieved Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag after Chelsea win

Manchester United's Dutch manager Erik ten Hag applauds the fans following the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England

Erik ten Hag got the response he desired after a dreadful display in a 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on Saturday as Scott McTominay's double rewarded arguably Manchester United's best performance of the season. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP

Published Dec 7, 2023


Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag said his side sent a message with a 2-1 Premier League win over Chelsea to ease the pressure on the Dutchman.

Ten Hag got the response he desired after a dreadful display in a 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on Saturday as Scott McTominay's double rewarded arguably United's best performance of the season with three points.

"We deserved this. We wanted to send this message to the crowd but this is also our style," said Ten Hag.

"Very pleased with the number of chances we created . It was very enjoyable for the fans to watch us play.”

Moving up the table

A sixth win in eight league games lifts United up to sixth and within three points of champions Manchester City in fourth.

Despite shelling out over £1 billion ($1.26 billion) on new players in three transfer windows, Chelsea remain down in 10th.

Just five wins in his first 15 league games in charge has put Mauricio Pochettino in the spotlight.

But the former Tottenham boss used a lengthy injury list as mitigation for his slow start at Stamford Bridge.

"We are a different project. We are not going to change what we have been saying from the beginning of the season," said Pochettino.

"Even with the players fit it would be difficult but now with players out, it is very, very difficult.”

Ten Hag's big decision

Ten Hag had been under increasing scrutiny amid reports of dressing room disquiet.

But his big decision to drop Marcus Rashford to the bench among four changes paid dividends as Ten Hag was rewarded with a far more energetic and enterprising display.

Chelsea had goalkeeper Robert Sanchez to thank for getting in level at the break.

United had 18 shots on goal before half-time -- the most Chelsea have faced in one half in the Premier League for 20 years -- but only had one goal to show for it.

A VAR intervention to award a penalty after Enzo Fernandez stood on Antony's foot gave the home side a glorious chance to open the scoring.

But Sanchez flew low to his right to parry Bruno Fernandes' spot-kick and Alejandro Garnacho blazed the rebound over.

United's determination to flood forward was also leaving gaps for Chelsea to exploit on the counter-attack.

Mykhailo Mudryk struck the outside of the post and the Ukrainian should have sent Raheem Sterling clean through on goal but for a poor pass that ruined another promising break.

Sanchez save

Sanchez was called into action once more to save a powerful effort from Garnacho, while Antony's wait to break a 24-match run without a goal goes on as he fired tamely into the Spanish international's arms.

Chelsea and Sanchez's resistance was finally broken when McTominay swept home his fifth goal of the season to become United's top scorer in the Premier League on 19 minutes.

The Scottish midfielder should have had a second moments later when his header from point-blank range and follow-up effort were both excellently saved by Sanchez.

And the hosts were made to pay as Chelsea levelled before half-time.

Cole Palmer was allowed to jink his way along the edge of the box and slotted into the far corner beyond Andre Onana's grasp.

United were quickly back on the front foot at the start of the second half.

Garnacho continued to curse his luck as a curling effort drifted inches wide.

That winning moment

However, the Argentine had a hand in the winning goal as his cross was powered in by McTominay's header 21 minutes from time.

McTominay should have a hat-trick when he skewed horribly wide with just Sanchez to beat.

United's profligacy gave Chelsea the chance to snatch a point late on when Armando Broja headed against the crossbar.

But that would have been more than the Blues deserved as Pochettino struggles to turn Chelsea's abundance of young talent into a functioning unit.