Romelu Lukaku’s performance said everything about himself and this Manchester United team. This is what he – and they – can do when the moods takes them. The challenge now is to do it more often.
This was a game that United deserved to win. They deserved it because they responded better than Chelsea when their opponents took the lead In the first half. They created the better chances in the second half and for the last hour were progressive while Chelsea, surprisingly, were not.
Chelsea should and could have taken a draw. Alvaro Morata had a poor afternoon but he had the ball in the net with five minutes to go and was incorrectly ruled offside. So Antonio Conte and his players left Old Trafford with something to feel genuinely sore about.
Romelu Lukaku (centre) rose to the occasion on Sunday as he scored one goal and assisted another against old club Chelsea
Lukaku drew United level at 1-1 just before the half-time interval, but that was not his only major contribution at Old Trafford
It was from an in-swinging Lukaku cross that substitute Jesse Lingard headed home United’s winning goal in the second half
Lingard and Lukaku celebrate with a special handshake while team-mate Ashley Young pats the substitute on his back
Chelsea had earlier taken a deserved lead through Willian, who rifled into the net despite Antonio Valencia’s attempted tackle
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Valencia 6, Smalling 6, Lindelof 6, Young 6; McTominay 6.5, Matic 7.5; Sanchez 6 (Bailly 80mins 6), Pogba 6, Martial 5.5 (Lingard 63mins 8); Lukaku 8.5
Subs not used: Mata, Carrick, Rashford, Shaw, Pereira
GOALS: Lukaku 39, Lingard 75
BOOKED: Matic, Morata
JOSE MOURINHO: 8
CHELSEA (3-4-2-1): Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 5.5, Rudiger 6; Moses 6 (Giroud 77mins 6), Kante 6, Drinkwater 6 (Fabregas 75mins 6), Alonso 6; Willian 7, Hazard 6 (Pedro 73mins 6); Morata 5.5
Subs not used: Caballero, Zappacota, Cahill, Palmieri
GOALS: Willian 30
ANTONIO CONTE: 6.5
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 7.5
MAN OF THE MATCH: Romelu Lukaku
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Chelsea’s Willian started the move which he eventually finished for the game’s first goal
Romelu Lukaku held the ball up well before converting a neat Antony Martial assist
For more maps and stats visit Sportsmail’s brilliant Match Zone.
But that doesn’t change the fact that United were better. After a poor start to the game they were just a little sharper and just a little bit more cohesive than Chelsea in key areas. Jose Mourinho also made better substitutions than Antonio Conte and one of them – Jesse Lingard for Anthony Martial – effectively won him the game.
So this was an afternoon for United to renew a little faith. Beating the big teams has always been a prerequisite at this club and here was a reminder that Mourinho remains a manager who knows how to do it.
The mystery is why United cannot raise themselves to these levels more often. Too often United – and expensive players like Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez – are too passive in their play. They do not exude the authority that should come with their status, not to mention their ability.
Here, on this occasion, Lukaku was ultimately the difference. The Belgian scored one and made one and was dangerous throughout. Had he been playing for Chelsea, the result probably would have been different. Lukaku was clinical while Morata was not. Chelsea, with Eden Hazard also having a poor game, were blunt when they reached the edge of the United penalty area while at the other end United grew more dangerous as the afternoon went on.
Certainly, it looked very different at 1-0 to Chelsea. Conte’s team had started the brighter and Morata volleyed a cross from Marcos Alonso on to the crossbar in only the fourth minute. So when they took the lead after half an hour it looked as though they would take the game away from United.
It was a brilliantly taken goal from Willian, Chelsea’s player of the moment. The Brazilian with the electric turn of pace picked up the ball in his own half when Pogba inexcusably failed to challenge Victor Moses in the air and passed the ball to Hazard before racing up field.
Alvaro Morata came close to scoring an early goal but his flicked effort from a Marcos Alonso cross hit United’s crossbar
Morata was seen covering his mouth as he said something to former Chelsea frontman Lukaku, with Nemanja Matic close by
The first yellow card of the game was given to Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante for a foul on fellow Frenchman Paul Pogba
Willian gave Chelsea a 32nd-minute lead a he hammered a powerful right-foot shot beyond David de Gea at his near post
Hazard’s return pass was superb and far too good for a United defence and midfield that found itself with too many players in the wrong positions. As Willian headed in to the penalty area, the angles seemed to be against him and it seemed briefly as though he may feed Morata to his left.
Maybe that is what David de Gea thought, too, as the United goalkeeper seemed to be surprised when the shot arrived, with power, at his near post. It was through him before he could readjust and Chelsea had a lead that had been coming.
The following ten minutes turned out to be the most important of the game. United looked vulnerable and almost immediately there were half chances for Hazard and Alonso. Neither were taken and as Chelsea seemed reluctant to land a killer blow United responded with an equaliser.
Lukaku’s touch can fail him at times but also it can appear very good. Here, he outmuscled N’Golo Kante on the edge of the penalty area to lay the ball back to Sanchez and, when it came back to him 12 yards out via a nice pass from Martial, he controlled it well and placed his shot past Thibaut Courtois in to the corner.
The 22nd goal of Lukaku’s debut United season, it was his first against a team higher than ninth in the table. That is a statistic that will continue to work against him until he does this more regularly.
Brazilian Willian is pursued by team-mate Morata as he runs away in celebration after hitting his fourth goal this month
Willian, who now has 12 Chelsea goals in all competitions this term, stretches out his arms as Morata looks on in delight
Eden Hazard (left) had assisted Willian with a fine pass but the Belgian took a back seat as his team-mate pointed to the sky
At the other end of the pitch, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois celebrates the opening goal of the match with a fist pump
Nevertheless, it gave United a platform to work and from that moment on they had the edge. Sanchez was once again disappointing but the Chilean did provide the cross from which Lukaku swivelled in mid-air to volley towards goal in the second half.
Courtois touched that one over but could do nothing with 15 minutes left.
Lukaku’s cross from the right probably should have been stopped at source and then the young defender Andreas Christensen got caught under the ball as Lingard headed in from eight yards. It was a poor goal to concede and summed up the way Chelsea’s afternoon had deteriorated.
Christensen, of course, was the player who erred when Lionel Messi equalised in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge last Tuesday. He may also have been tighter to Lukaku for the first goal so this is a time to question Conte’s wisdom in picking him ahead of Gary Cahill.
But mistakes from a young defender are not why Chelsea lost this game. For once, Mourinho’s United team found a way to impose themselves on an important match and take a result away from a big opponent.
They will have another chance soon enough. They play Liverpool here in a fortnight.
England rugby coach Eddie Jones (centre) watched from the stands, in between Paul Clement (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson
Lukaku drew United level on 39 minutes as he managed to fire past Courtois despite being surrounded by Chelsea defenders
Former Chelsea striker Lukaku kept his celebrations fairly muted as he wheeled away after scoring against his old club
The 24-year-old Belgium international — who joined United from Everton last summer — looks up and points to the sky
Lukaku is congratulated by multiple United team-mates who huddled around him on the Old Trafford pitch on Sunday
Defender Chris Smalling (right) and midfielder Scott McTominay were among the United players to congratulate Lukaku
Keeper Courtois looks dejected as he retrieves the ball from the back of Chelsea’s net after being beaten by a fellow Belgian
Courtois was almost beaten by Lukaku again in the second half but he pulled of a good save to keep out an acrobatic effort
A frustrated Lukaku claps his hands and grimaces as he sits on the turf after being denied a second goal of the afternoon
Lukaku was soon back up on his feet and his cross found the head of Lingard, who headed United 2-1 up 15 minutes from time
Lingard sticks out his tongue as he celebrates his 13th goal of the season in all competitions — his eighth in the league
Morata beat De Gea with a neat finish late on but his goal was ruled out as the Chelsea man was adjudged to have been offside
Television replays on Sky Sports suggested that the assistant referee’s decision to call Morata offside was the wrong one