Erik ten Hag’s bravest call yet rewarded with crucial victory over Chelsea

    Scott McTominay once again impressed as he scored both goals for the hosts at Old Trafford – Shutterstock/ PETER POWELL

    This was a night when one academy graduate was dropped but two others stood up to deliver a huge win for their manager. Erik ten Hag’s brave decision to omit Marcus Rashford was rewarded with a performance of bold attacking intent from Manchester United and two star turns from Scott McTominay and Alejandro Garnacho.

    For the second time this season, McTominay scored twice at Old Trafford to earn a precious victory and ease the pressure on Ten Hag, his heroics here against a deeply flawed Chelsea following those two late goals in that dramatic smash and grab against Brentford in October.

    Amidst the turbulence at United this season, McTominay is emerging as a great renaissance story. The Scotland midfielder could have easily been sold in the summer but refused to sulk, buckled down and now has six goals in 11 games and has been central to efforts to kickstart United’s troubled campaign. If only there were more with such an attitude.

    Garnacho, meanwhile, gave Marc Cucurella such a hard time in the first half that the Chelsea defender was hooked at the interval and then set about terrorising the Spaniard’s replacement, Reece James, in the second period.

    In that regard, it was fitting the pair should combine for the winner that at times Ten Hag must have feared would not come given the extraordinary number of outstanding chances his side carved only to contrive to miss.

    Marc Cucurella of Chelsea and Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United

    Alejandro Garnacho terrorised Marc Cucurella – Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

    Starting in the left wing position Rashford could be in danger of permanently surrendering to the young Argentine if he is not careful, Garnacho was a relentless, pulsating presence and produced a performance in stark contrast to the lethargy and apathy exhibited by Rashford in that abysmal 1-0 defeat at Newcastle at the weekend. Indeed, it was mirrored by much of the team.

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    And so Ten Hag and United have a little breathing space, at least for a few days. They must now ensure they do not undo all their hard work against Chelsea by falling short at home to Bournemouth on Saturday, when Rashford could not complain if he again finds himself warming the bench.

    United had 28 shots in total against Chelsea and, while their profligacy kept the door open for Mauricio Pochettino’s team, they attacked with a verve, energy and aggression not seen nearly enough in the Premier League this season. Ten Hag will certainly hope for more of the same against Bournemouth – and Bayern Munich and Liverpool next week.

    Still, it would have been in keeping with Ten Hag’s misfortune if all those missed chances had come back to haunt him. He had dropped Rashford but, for a good while, it looked as though another boy from Wythenshawe was going to leave him frustrated.

    Cole Palmer, who grew up not far from his England team-mate in that tough Manchester neighbourhood, scored a superb equaliser on the cusp of half-time to cap off an utterly chaotic first half that could easily have ended 6-4 in United’s favour.

    Control remains an elusive concept for both of these two teams and their sheer openness in those opening 45 minutes made for riotous entertainment. Bruno Fernandes missed a controversial penalty after nine minutes and it set the tone for what was to follow as an attacking free-for-all ensued, football meets basketball and then some. United, in particular, spurned so many chances, the best of which fell to McTominay who, completely unmarked, headed straight at Robert Sánchez from a few yards out. No wonder he was both relieved and delighted to later pop up with the winner from a similar position.

    Mykhailo Mudryk hit a post, Nicolas Jackson – who had a bad night – should have done better when teed up by Raheem Sterling – and again when directing a close range header over the bar early in the first half. This was an ultra attacking line up from Pochettino so perhaps it was little wonder they looked so open. The Chelsea manager’s decision to start Cucurella, a left-back by trade, on the right backfired and the experiment was abandoned at half-time with Garnacho having given him twisted blood. Unfortunately, James, the Chelsea captain, did not find the going any easier against United’s flying winger. Garnacho even attempted to reprise his stunning bicycle kick against Everton but on this occasion hammered the ball into the stands.

    Say what you will about Ten Hag, he is not afraid to duck the big decisions. From kicking out Cristiano Ronaldo and stripping Harry Maguire of the captain’s armband to releasing David De Gea and exiling Jadon Sancho, the United manager will confront those thorny issues and now we can add dropping Rashford into the mix. United were better for it.

    McTominay’s first goal derived from Jackson losing the ball as a Chelsea counter broke down before it had really begun. Sofyan Amrabat found Bruno Fernandes – also excellent on the night – and United’s captain played a disguised pass to Garnacho. His cut back was drilled towards goal by Harry Maguire before McTominay took one touch to control the rebound with his right before belting a controlled volley with his left into the bottom corner.

    Like Cucurella for Chelsea, United’s Victor Lindelof was also removed at the break. It was the Swede who was shown up by Palmer for Chelsea’s equaliser as United counted the cost of those missed chances. Drifting across the penalty area from right to left with that gloriously languid stride of his, Palmer drew Lindelof with him and then, after the slightest of feints, created enough of an angle to tease an inch perfect finish from an acute angle into the bottom corner.

    United’s winner was richly deserved, though, Garnacho screaming forward before checking his run and curling a lovely cross into the six yard box where McTominay, shrugging off the attentions of Thiago Silva, nodded home.

    Boy did United, and Ten Hag, need that.

    Man Utd earn deserved win over Chelsea as it happened

    11:01 PM GMT

    So the mini crisis is over

    At least for now.

    United deserved tonight’s win, but you suspect the critics will once again be out in force should they slip up against Bournemouth at the weekend or in the Bayern Munich and Liverpool matches that swiftly follow. It never gets any easier…

    10:48 PM GMT

    Erik ten Hag speaks to Amazon Prime Sport – ‘We have a good dressing room’

    On the good performance and win…

    “It is about results but you need a good performance to get the right result.”

    On the improvement from the Newcastle defeat…

    “Last week we played three games, everyone talks about Newcastle. We told them [it was bad] and they knew. [But] they are not robots b. But this is a good side and good dressing room.”

    On the dressing room (as if to emphasise a point…)

    “We have a good dressing room, it’s not just about XI on the pitch. When we play so many game you have to rotate.”

    On McTominay…

    “He had a very important role. I admire him.”

    On needing the win…

    “We want to put things right but crowd always behind us, we have to please them. But sometimes you have less performance, its not easy to [put in good performances all the time].”

    On being only three points behind Man City in fourth…

    “This league is very strong everyone can beat everyone, if not at top of your game you can get killed. Bournemouth [who they face at the weekend] is also very good team.”

    More on the Newcastle match (he didn’t like the focus on the Newcastle defeat)

    “We play in that week three games…We played on Wednesday [Newcastle] played on Tuesday. That’s not an excuse to play like we did., but but they know they have to do better.”

    On what this win means…

    “When you win it’s good and you can enjoy for 24 hours and then keep going. You need resilience to end in top four and that’s what we want.”

    10:26 PM GMT

    Scott McTominay speaks to Amazon Prime Sport

    On the win…

    “Thought started really well. We reacted after the abysmal display to Newcastle. So to come here and win is something we can build on.”

    On getting the goals tonight and this season…

    “I’ve always enjoyed getting in the box and maybe could have scored more. All the boys were world class and need to show that consistently.”

    On what they need to do now…

    “We just take it a game at a time, step by step cannot get carried away.”

    10:22 PM GMT

    If that match revealed anything it’s that

    Both these sides in their current forms are some way off the top sides in the division. The first half was so open and it resembled the joyful park football of most of our childhoods, fun to play but not going to win you trophies. These sides had the top two net spends and it’s not overly clear what they have got for their money. For Chelsea their pairing of Cacaido and Fernandez certainly didn’t look worth a quarter of a billion…

    10:19 PM GMT

    Ian Whittell at Old Trafford…

    Some post-match shenanigans as a young pitch invader is wrestled to the ground by three burly stewards – some of the best defensive work seen at Old Trafford all season. Bu a deserved, and needed win for United, who move to within three points of City! Crisis? What crisis?

    10:19 PM GMT

    The winner from United’s new scoring sensation…

    …Yep, Scott McTominay.

    10:17 PM GMT

    FULL-TIME: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    That was the last action of a lively game and one that went the way of the hosts who not only got the win but also the performance. There was the heart and desire in that win that was so lacking in the limp defeat to Newcastle.

    For Chelsea, the less said the better. They created chances in the first half without every fully convincing, but were easily second-best in the second 45.

    10:15 PM GMT

    94 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    Last-chance saloon for Chelsea as James wins a corner…

    Can they score from this, their last attempt in the 94th minute?

    NO they cannot, as United clear the cross.

    10:14 PM GMT

    92 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    United have the ball in Chelsea’s half – just where they want and need it…time running out for the visitors.

    10:12 PM GMT

    90 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    There will be four minutes of added time…can United hold on. They deserve to.

    10:12 PM GMT

    89 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    Bit of confusion at Old Trafford as Chelsea press for the equaliser. The ball is delivered to the back post and Broja’s header hits the post (it’s the outside of the post and think Onana had it covered). But at the same time another ball comes onto the pitch. Not sure whether by accident or design.

    10:09 PM GMT

    87 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    Can United hold on, or even seal the deal with just minutes to go?

    As I type the ball lands at the feet of Reece James (who’s been good since he came on) and his volley goes well over the bar…

    10:07 PM GMT

    86 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    No shock as the ever-likable McCoist on Amazon comms gives the man-of-the-match to McTominay.

    10:06 PM GMT

    84 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    A half-chance for Chelsea all thanks to a ball from James on the right that oozed class, Fernandez makes a great run but cannot get on the end of it. Still, I think, no saves for Onana to make this half…

    10:05 PM GMT

    82 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    It’s time for Rashford. It’s Hojlund who makes way. He looks a good player but on a night where United have had a host of chances the Dane didn’t really have any, which for a striker isn’t the best of looks…

    10:04 PM GMT

    81 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    As Rashford prepares to come on Chelsea have a free kick some 30 yards out. Can they give Onana something to do this half?

    The answer is no and that’s thanks to a fine block from Antony. Sterling laid the ball off to Fernandez but by the time he let fly the Brazilian was there to intervene. That’s the sort of determination so lacking from United at the weekend.

    10:01 PM GMT

    79 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    Since they scored the second it’s been all United – impressive. This time Reguilon passes inside to Garnacho and his attempt inside the box goes just wide.

    United wanted a win and a performance and so far that’s what this side have delivered…still more than 10 minutes to go, however…

    09:59 PM GMT

    76 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    You suspect if United keep this tight at the back as they have done this half – it’s their match.

    But Chelsea have brought on Armando Broja for Mykhailo Mudryk and the visitors now have two going thought the middle as they chase this game.

    09:55 PM GMT

    73 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    Chelsea are easily second best at the moment and as I type that Garnacho is through and in on goal, but just as he goes for goal James races back and gets in a  fine challenge. That was so nearly once again United’s third.

    The visitors haven’t been in this match since the break,

    09:53 PM GMT

    71 mins: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

    It’s nearly three for United and McTominay. It’s another howler from Sanchez who for the second time tonight kicks straight to a United man. This time it’s to Antony, who plays a delightful no-look pass to the Scot but this time he shows he’s no Denis Law but shooting well wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

    09:49 PM GMT


    Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea 

    McTominay with his second! The new Denis Law (McTominay is United’s leading scorer this season…) scores again. The ball comes out to Garnacho on the left, the Argentine cuts back onto his right, curls in a cross and the Scottish sharp shooter makes no mistake at the back post to head past Sanchez.

    There is, for no obvious reason (apparently a slight push) a Var check. But the goal stands.



    09:49 PM GMT

    67 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Yet another corner for United. Again Fernandes cannot beat the first man, but the ball comes back to the hosts and ultimately goes for goal from some way out and it’s no shock to see it goal well wide.

    09:47 PM GMT

    New cult hero

    There is genuine adoration from the Stretford End for Alejandro Garnacho. Already a cult hero for his astonishing bicycle kick against Everton, he has quite the eye for the acrobatic, conjuring two audacious efforts in the space of the minute. He smiles at himself for how hopelessly he miscues the first.

    09:46 PM GMT

    63 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    The hosts are more than growing into this half. First there’s a half chance for Fernandes, who pulls his shot wide. It took a deflection, however, and goes for another corner.

    From that set piece McTominay again has a go at goal and Sanchez saves at the second attempt.

    Another goal on the way?

    09:44 PM GMT

    61 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Two half chances for United.

    (i) Antony goes for goal with the outside of his left boot, it takes a deflection and it goes just wide…

    (ii) From the resulting corner the ball comes to Shaw who hits it on the half volley and it hits Silva’s hand. All of Old Trafford rise and appeal for a handball but neither Chris Kavanagh nor the Var agree.

    09:40 PM GMT

    60 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Both sides are being more disciplined and the chances haven’t flowed in the same slightly bonkers way they did before the break.

    09:39 PM GMT

    58 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    United looked more solid at the back so far this half, they’ve blocked any balls into the box and limited Chelsea to chances from set pieces.

    09:38 PM GMT

    54 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Garnacho again has the ball on the left, this time he’s chest on and he tries something more authodox, a curler into the far corner of the net. This one is closer than his last attempt.

    United have started this half better than the west Londoners and this stat illustrates the fact they’ve been the better side all night.

    Touches in the opponent’s half: United 24 Chelsea 12

    09:36 PM GMT

    53 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Better from United – they work the ball well down the right crossing, it comes to Garnacho who shapes to do another bicycle kick, he can’t repeat his goal he scored against Everton can he? Of course he cannot, this attempt goes well wide, can’t blame him for try however.



    09:32 PM GMT

    51 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    After good work form Mudryk Chelsea have a corner – as with United a minute earlier they create nothing.

    This isn’t the fast start to the second half to mirror the first 45.

    09:31 PM GMT

    50 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Corner for United. Alas Fernandes cannot beat the first man – poor delivery to say the least…

    09:30 PM GMT

    47 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    Palmer plays a gorgeous ball with the outside of his left boot for Sterling to get on the end of. The England man gets in a low cross that’s blocked and earns the visitors a corner.

    From the set piece Colwill heads on and Jackson is free at the back post that he heads over…should have scored…

    09:26 PM GMT

    45 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    They’re back under way at Old Trafford. A defensive change for both (no huge shock there). Reguilon on for United, James on for Chelsea. Lindelof and Cucurella are the ones to make way.

    09:23 PM GMT

    xG counts for little if the ball doesn’t go into the back of the net, however…

    09:13 PM GMT

    And sit back and enjoy Palmer’s equaliser

    What a talent…

    09:13 PM GMT

    Here’s McTominay’s opener

    09:11 PM GMT

    HALF-TIME: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    That was an entertaining half. Open enough to cause the managers headaches, fun enough to keep the fans more than entertained.

    United were the better side and should have gone two clear through the head of McTominay. But while Chelsea haven’t been too impressive they have created four-five chances and Palmer’s equaliser underlines two things (i) this match is there to win for either side, and, (ii) he’s a fine young talent and already one of Chelsea’s key players.

    09:08 PM GMT

    51 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    United with more possession as the half races towards the break…but, for once, no chances created in a half packed with them.

    09:07 PM GMT

    49 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    From the next corner Sanchez is adjudged to have been fouled…not sure about that one.

    09:06 PM GMT

    48 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    The crowd is notably quieter now that Palmer has equalised. But their side has been the better of the two and am sure that will be the message from Ten Hag when the break eventually comes. As I type Garnacho shows brilliant feet to set Garnacho free on the left, the Argentine does well to win a corner.

    From that corner the hosts earn another…

    09:03 PM GMT

    45 mins: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

    United have been impressive and played with the intensity that Ten Hag would doubtless have called for. But they’ve been open at the back and Chelsea have created enough chances to deserve that equaliser.

    09:00 PM GMT


    Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea 

    A brilliant goal from Cole Palmer. 

    He’s some player is this 21-year-old. The ball is played to him outside the box in the inside-left channel, you think Lindelof has him but the Man Utd fan (yep, he was a red Mancunian) tries to work the half yard needed for a shot, cuts in, and in, and in and then gets away a shot that nestles into the corner of the net…so impressive.

    08:59 PM GMT

    43 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    There are expected to be as many as eight added minutes…more than enough time to see at least another goal…

    08:59 PM GMT

    42 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    From the corner they go short to Dalot, who plays a square ball to Fernandes and he fancies his chances from 35 yards and it shocks no one that the ambitious attempt does not bother Sanchez.

    08:57 PM GMT

    41 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    Hojlund is barged over by Caicedo – clumsy. It’s within range for Fernandes, about 30 yards out and fairly central. Can he done anything from this?

    Nope, but it does get a hefty deflection and earns a corner.

    08:56 PM GMT

    38 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    Chelsea could have had two or three great chances BUT haven’t played at all well. Weird game from their perspective.

    08:53 PM GMT

    35 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    Sorry to sound like a broken record but this is sooooooooo open (yes, that open that so required lots of os…). This time Mudryk is free in the United box but only manages to hit his shot wide of the left upright.

    08:52 PM GMT

    So open…

    Both defences have looked hopelessly open so far. Scott McTominay makes the breakthrough but this could be 2-2 already. Chelsea fans have plenty of targets at whom they could direct blame but the focus of their ire is not difficult to detect. “F— VAR,” they chant, repeatedly.

    08:51 PM GMT

    32 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    It should be 1-1 now – did I say this was end-to-end stuff?! – Sterling runs clear of his man, beating the offside trap, and plays in Jackson whose shot is saved well by the on-rushing Onana. Not sure Sterling’s pass was as good as it could have been…

    This is a very open affair and only that will be giving both managers heart attacks…

    08:49 PM GMT

    31 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    It should be 2-0 to United. The ball comes in from the left and McTominay meets it only five or so yards out with his head Sanchez saves, it comes back to the new Denis Law and his first-time rebound is again saved by the Chelsea stopper. Not sure how much he knew about those saves (they were both straight at him) but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    08:47 PM GMT

    29 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    After a bit of a problem with the linesman’s technical equipment the game can continue. Chelsea try and play out from the back and only succeed in passing back to Sanchez who only succeeds in hitting the ball straight to Fernandes, they survive that mishap but it underlines just how poor the visitors have been.

    08:44 PM GMT

    27 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    Here’s a stat that reveals what’s happened so far: United have had 11 shots to Chelsea’s two.

    08:42 PM GMT

    24 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    Sterling goes down in the box having been played in by Jackson, he cuts in and falls after a negligible touch from Lindelof. The ref is having none of it and the replay shows why. There was minimal contact and if you were being harsh (not in my nature…) then you could call that a bit of a dive…

    08:40 PM GMT

    Ian Whittell at Old Trafford…

    That’s four Premier League goals for McTominay now … making him United’s leading scorer with one more than Bruno. Bearing in mind Ten Hag looked set to offload him this summer, that is some response … or an indication of the problems United have in the scoring department.


    United’s leading scorer, yep, it’s McTominay – Shutterstock /Peter Powell

    08:38 PM GMT

    20 mins: Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea

    United fans demanded a reaction to the limp defeat to Newcastle and that’s exactly what they’ve got. The  hosts are well worth the lead.

    08:35 PM GMT


    Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea 

    United get deserved opener. It’s been coming and it’s come from the left boot of McTominay. Jackson loses the ball on the left, United ship the ball to their left, Fernandes plays in Garnacho whose cut back is met first time by Maguire, the ball is blocked but comes to the Scottish international who hits it first time into the net.



    08:34 PM GMT

    18 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    Chance at the other end now and it’s come for Antony but he and Garnacho conspire to sort of get in each other’s way….

    08:34 PM GMT

    17 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    There have been a fair few attempts from distance already tonight – half chances at best but chances nonetheless. The last one comes from the left boot of Fernandez. Palmer lays the ball off to him and his attempt is saved by Onana.

    08:31 PM GMT

    13 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    This is an open game – first Garnacho is free inside the Chelsea box, but his sidefooted attempt is saved by Sanchez with relative ease (he should have gone for power into the other corner of the net). Then Chelsea break at pace and have an overlap BUT for some reason Mudryk’s pass allows United to intercept.

    Good to watch but the managers, you suspect, will be spitting blood.

    08:28 PM GMT

    11 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    Chelsea’s first meaningful challenge sees Mudryk played in inside the box but the ball almost gets stuck underneath him and his shot doesn’t force Onana into a meaningful save.

    08:25 PM GMT


    It’s as poor a penalty from Fernandes as as it was a poor challenge from Fernandez…Sanchez goes right and makes a good (ish) save and the follow up from Hojlund is also poor.

    Poor all around!

    Let off for Chelsea.

    08:24 PM GMT

    Penalty for United

    It was a silly challenge from Fernandez and even Ally McCoist on comms says it was a penalty (initially thought is wasn’t…)

    Poor and unnecessary challenge from Fernandez on Antony

    Poor and unnecessary challenge from Fernandez on Antony – AFP/Oli Scarf

    08:23 PM GMT

    Var check for a possible penalty

    United are awarded another corner after decent work from Antony in the box.

    BUT a replay shows Fernandez stamped on the Brazilian’s foot and Chris Kavanagh is told to go to the monitor…

    08:21 PM GMT

    4 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    Another positive sign for United. They attack down the left, Hojlund makes a great run in behind and shoots first time forcing Sanchez into a decent save.

    A minute later United attack down the right and Dalot’s cross force Cucurella into giving a corner away.

    United needed a positive start and that’s what they’ve done.

    08:19 PM GMT

    3 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    First half-chance for United, the ball is squared for Fernandes whose first-time shot goes over the bar. Perhaps should have at least got that on target – he was unchallenged from 25 yards out.

    08:18 PM GMT

    2 mins: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    Jackson tries to take on Maguire on the left just outside the box, the Chelsea man nutmegs him but the United defender says ‘thou shall not pass’ and brings down Jackson but, for some reason (not sure what), it’s not given as a foul.

    08:15 PM GMT

    1 min: Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea

    They’re under way at Old Trafford, the hosts are in their famous red and Chelsea in their famous blue – two traditional kits, no garish away outfits, delightful!

    08:12 PM GMT

    The teams are out on the pitch

    And we’re moments away from kick off.

    It’s seventh vs 10th – not many times over the past 20 or so years you could say that about this fixture. How the mighty have fallen…

    08:11 PM GMT

    United need a win tonight

    But they could also do with a performance as well.

    If it doesn’t go well then it could go toxic quickly.

    08:06 PM GMT

    Here’s Ten Hag from an interview with United We Stand – ‘transfers in January unlikely’

    Erik ten Hag has suggested Manchester United are unlikely to make any signings in the January transfer window.

    Asked if supporters could expects arrivals next month, Ten Hag told the United We Stand fanzine: “I don’t think so — and if so, the approach from United should be that if you can improve your team, then you should do. What we expect from every player coming to Carrington every day is for them to give their maximum, to give their best.

    “As a club, you have to look for improvements, so if you can find better and it’s realistic financially and with financial fair play, I think the club has to go with it. But realistically, in relation to the market, most of the time you don’t attract the best players in the winter. The top, top players will not leave their clubs in the winter. It’s players who are disappointed, injured or just not the right fit or whatever.”

    Ten Hag also defended his transfer record in the interview and dismissed claims that he has been fixated on signing players who played under him previously or in the Dutch Eredivisie.

    “It’s a perception,” he said. “It’s used to make a point. Has Casemiro played Eredivisie? (Christian) Eriksen played in Eredivisie 10 years ago, then for Spurs and Inter Milan. I’ve even seen Mason Mount aligned to the Eredivisie. He was there as a young player to develop. For me, Mount was one of the most attractive young players in the Premier League going out of contract with one year left. It was a great opportunity for us to sign a very good 24-year-old player. That was nothing to do with the Eredivisie.

    “And, if you sign players from Ajax, just look at their history. They have delivered many, many players to the top clubs in the world. It’s a long list.”

    Ten Hag also insisted he is convinced he will get United back on top.

    “We are building, and I see through the cloud and see a bright future here,” he added. “I see positive things at Carrington. You might not see them so clearly, but I do.”

    08:03 PM GMT

    Alan Shearer on Rashford being dropped

    “Not surprised he’s been dropped…I looked at the manager on Saturday and he looked that annoyed [about the performance and body language] But if things aren’t going well then he can come off the bench…he’ll be hurting, it’s embarrassing for him. He’ll always have the chance to come in and prove the manager wrong and that could happen tonight.”

    Marcus Rashford

    Bench warmer: Marcus Rashford won’t start this evening – Shutterstock /Peter Powell

    07:56 PM GMT

    Just when United fans thought things couldn’t get worse

    Jeremy Clarkson turns up…

    07:52 PM GMT

    Varane’s absence is down to a sore back

    That’s just in from our man at Old Trafford, James Ducker.


    Varane has a sore back – Getty Images/Michael Regan

    07:47 PM GMT

    All change for out-of-sorts United

    Marcus Rashford has finally paid for his poor form by being dropped by Erik ten Hag. It will be Alejandro Garnacho and Antony on the flanks against Chelsea with Rasmus Hojlund upfront. Rashford was heavily criticised for his terrible body language and failure to track back in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle. Anthony Martial, who clashed with Ten Hag during the game, also drops to the bench.

    07:43 PM GMT

    It would be easy to say the four changes are…

    …down to the player revolt, that may or may not exist. But there is a sense that after the limp performance and defeat to Newcastle Ten Hag had to change things.

    Erik ten Hag

    Running out of time and ideas? Erik ten Hag has wielded the axe tonight – Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

    07:40 PM GMT

    Both teams in black and white

    MANCHESTER UNITED XI: Onana, Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, Amrabat, McTominay, Fernandes, Antony, Garnacho, Hojlund. Subs: Bayindir, Martial, Rashford, Reguilon, Pellistri, Wan-Bissaka, Van de Beek, Evans, Mainoo.

    So as I revealed in the post below Ten Hag has responded to all this talk of player revolt by dropping the misfiring Rashford. The Dutchman has also dropped three others from the Newcastle defeat – Victor Lindelof, Sofyan Amrabat, Antony and Rasmus Hojlund come into the starting line-up, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Kobbie Mainoo and Anthony Martial are the trio who make way.

    CHELSEA XI TO FACE MANCHESTER UNITED: Sanchez, Disasi, Thiago Silva, Colwill, Cucurella, Caicedo, Fernandez, Sterling, Palmer, Mudryk, Jackson. Subs: Petrovic, Badiashile, Broja, James, Maatsen, Deivid, Gilchrist, Matos, Castledine.

    Two changes for the visitors who beat Brighton 3-2 on Saturday. Cole Palmer replaces the suspended Conor Gallagher. Marc Cucurella is the other new man, in for Benoit Badiashile, with Reece James on the bench after suspension.

    07:31 PM GMT

    BIG NEWS IS: Rashford dropped to the bench

    MANCHESTER UNITED XI: Onana, Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, Amrabat, McTominay, Fernandes, Antony, Garnacho, Hojlund.

    Subs: Bayindir, Martial, Rashford, Reguilon, Pellistri, Wan-Bissaka, Van de Beek, Evans, Mainoo.

    Marcus Rashford will not start tonight

    Marcus Rashford will not start tonight – Getty Images/Chris Brunskill

    07:26 PM GMT

    All doom and gloom at Manchester United

    It’s fair to say things are not all rosy and full of Christmas cheer at Manchester United at the moment. The club sits seventh in the Premier League table having endured a troubled start to the season; are bottom of their Champions League group and on the verge of going out; rumours of dressing room discontent persist; and to top it all off Erik ten Hag has banned journalists from attending press conferences after what some may call a hissy fit. Happy Christmas everyone!

    The latter issue was caused by reports of the player revolt. I can certainly think of better ways to pour cold water on problems at Old Trafford than by reacting out of sorts and like a little kid. It’s less a dead cat strategy and more a watch a possible dead man walking strategy.

    Yep, it has for some, including our very own James Ducker, reached the stage where, if all this talk of revolt continues and results don’t improve, the manager could be looking for a new job. Well, the Dutchman has been there for over a year now (an age in modern-day football) and such talk is no longer ridiculed in the way it would have been when I were a lad…

    All of that is part being serious and part being facetious, but it’s also underlines that this is one of those matches the Premier League loves – yep A Must-Win Game.

    The narrative should United lose to Chelsea tonight would all doom and gloom. The sky would fall in and mankind (well, those in the red half of Manchester, at least) would struggle to survive.

    The defeat at Newcastle on Saturday felt like a new low point for a side that has struggled for breath in the shallow end. A loss tonight, against another Big Club (in a sort of mini crisis of it’s own) may well be one defeat too far for some, though one has to ask whether a change in the dugout would really be the solution to the club’s seemingly never-ending problems.

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