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Manchester United defeat Chelsea to throw open title race

Manchester United threw the Premier League title race open and boosted their hopes of a top-four finish as Jose Mourinho masterminded a 2-0 Old Trafford victory over his former club Chelsea.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford wheels away after opening the scoring for United. Nick Potts/PA Wire/PA Images

The result — which came a day after Tottenham Hotspur had beaten Bournemouth 4-0 — means Chelsea’s lead stands at four points, with both the Blues and Spurs having six games remaining.

United left Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench following the Europa League draw at Anderlecht while Chelsea were without keeper Thibaut Courtois, who had an ankle injury, and Marcos Alonso, who had a hamstring problem in the warmup.

The home side began at a fierce pace and created the first chance of the afternoon after only five minutes.

It arrived when Jesse Lingard stole the ball from David Luiz and set up Marcus Rashford on the edge of the area, only for the striker to scuff an effort wide.

But Rashford had to wait only two more minutes to give his side the lead, keeping his cool after a superb through pass from Ander Herrera to slide the ball past Begovic.

Chelsea had wanted a handball against Herrera as he won possession in a midfield challenge before playing the pass, but referee Bobby Madley waved play on.

The visitors were struggling to get much joy from a well-drilled United defence, and Diego Costa showed his annoyance when he shoved Eric Bailly to earn a talking-to from Madley.

And they soon had more to worry about at the other end as Ashley Young fired in a dangerous low cross that just eluded Rashford.

After 23 minutes, another United attack — sparked when Paul Pogba made a fine challenge to end a Chelsea counter — ended with Begovic pushing away a Rashford cross.

Young shot wide as United continued to dominate, and after 33 minutes Costa’s simmering frustration earned him a yellow card for another clash with Bailly.

Chelsea captain Gary Cahill joined Costa in the book in the opening moments of the second half for a challenge on Marouane Fellaini — and soon afterwards United doubled their lead.

With 50 minutes on the clock, Herrera was found just inside the area by Young and his fierce strike deflected off Zouma to soar past the stranded Begovic and into the Stretford End net.

 Within five minutes, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte had brought on Cesc Fabregas for Victor Moses as he looked to revive his side’s hopes of salvaging something, and the change sparked a brief spell of pressure that saw David De Gea claim smartly as Costa threatened.

Shortly after the hour, with United having replaced Lingard with Michael Carrick, Rashford came close to a third when his effort brushed the side-netting.

The same player soon threatened yet again as his low attempt after a determined run forced Begovic to save at his near post.

Chelsea threw Willian into the fray for Nemanja Matic but were still struggling to create chances and Mourinho replaced Rashford — given a huge ovation as he made his way off — with Ibrahimovic.

Fabregas was booked for a foul on Carrick as United ran down the clock on a day that gave them, and Mourinho, revenge for two defeats at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.

Credit:@PA Sports

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