45 min +1: Havertz is booked for a cynical tug on Fred’s shirt. Mata busies himself down the right. Wan-Bissaka fires in a low cross, but it’s easily claimed by Mendy.
45 min: There will be one more minute of first-half football.
44 min: Shaw bustles in from the left but, just as things look like opening up for him, he loses control and lets the ball run through to Mendy. United are enjoying their best spell of the match. The break is coming at the wrong time for them.
43 min: The corner leads to nowt. Rashford’s good to continue.
41 min: Mata aims a curler towards the top left. Mendy does very well to tip round for a corner. The closest United have come. Before the resulting corner can be taken, Rashford gets some treatment after being clipped on the bottom of the boot by Silva. VAR checks for foul play, but again, no interest. Like the one before it, you’ve seen ‘em given. Somewhere in the multiverse, both teams have been awarded a penalty kick.
40 min: Chilwell hoicks it into the mixer. United clear. Maguire has his arm right around Azpilicueta, who wants a penalty. It’s a fair shout, Maguire giving him a good old hug from behind and dragging him down. But neither referee nor VAR show interest.
39 min: Shaw is booked for tugging away at Reece James, who was making good at great pace down the right. A free kick with promise for Chelsea. “Despite the potential howler, that Mendy save on Rashford was a shot that Kepa would have seen behind him in the net,” notes Mary Waltz.
37 min: Like Pulisic before him, Rashford could have taken another couple of steps towards goal before shooting. But he spotted a gap at the bottom left, and went for a power threader towards that. He was denied by an excellent save, to be fair.
35 min: United finally force Mendy into proper work. Jorginho is stripped of possession by Fernandes; Mata then slips Rashford away down the inside right. He reaches the area and batters towards the far corner. Mendy sticks out a leg to deflect. A fine reaction save. Rashford should probably have done better, but if there’s any time to cut him some slack, it’s now. He’s not happy with himself, though. Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
34 min: Pulisic robs Fred and drives at the United defence down the right. His low diagonal shot deflects off Lindelof and out for a corner on the left. Nothing comes of the set piece.
32 min: Pulisic dances in from the left and eases past McTominay. He enters the box and takes a whack. De Gea gathers at his near post. Pulisic could have taken another step or two towards goal there, such was the gap in United’s defence, but opted to take it early. Bad decision, it turns out.
31 min: One corner leads to another, and Mendy makes up for his ludicrous error by safely gathering Fernandes’ long-range shot.
30 min: Zouma passes back to Mendy, who turns and nearly drags a pass into his own net! Fortunately for the keeper, the ball rolls out of play wide of the left-hand post. But that was nearly extremely embarrassing for Chelsea’s new keeper. It still might be if something comes from this needless corner.
29 min: McTominay finds a little bit of space 25 yards out and shapes to shoot. Pulisic bravely gets in his road.
28 min: Fred pointlessly barges into the back of Chilwell, going nowhere out on the left. Free kick. The box is loaded. Reece James spots a gap at the near post and tries to surprise De Gea by going direct for goal, but the keeper’s not falling for the trick. He’s across to gather with ease.
26 min: Havertz, on the edge of the United D, plays a cute reverse pass down the left channel in the hope of springing Werner free. There’s too much juice on the ball, and it flies out for a goal kick. I suspect the flag would have gone up for offside had Werner been able to control and shoot, but the point is moot.
25 min: Maguire meets the corner, but isn’t able to get a header goalwards. Chelsea clear. This match hasn’t taken off yet. That’s understandable given the conditions, though not what we’ve become accustomed to in this wild and wacky season.
24 min: So having said that, Wan-Bissaka sends a ball down the right, allowing Rashford to probe down the wing, and forcing Chelsea to concede a corner.
23 min: United haven’t visited Chelsea’s final third for over ten minutes.
21 min: Some sweet relief for the hosts as a loose Kante pass down the inside-left channel is ushered out of play by Wan-Bissaka for a goal kick. And something of a let-off for Fernandes, who petulantly clips Jorginho around the lug as the pair battle for space. To be fair, it was more of a stroke than anything particularly aggressive, and it would have been a ridiculously soft sending off. But catch a referee or VAR operative on a bad day, and you never know.
20 min: From the corner, Pulisic drives at McTominay down the left but the United midfielder stands strong. However United are struggling to get out of their final third. Chelsea continue to press them back.
19 min: Chelsea are beginning to dominate possession. Jorginho sprays a ball wide left for Chilwell, who earns another Chelsea corner off Wan-Bissaka.
17 min: Jorginho and Havertz combine down the right and force Shaw to concede a corner. Chilwell takes. It’s half cleared. It’s slapped back weakly by Pulisic. Neither keeper has needed to get his hands warm yet.
16 min: A pause in play as Rashford goes down, having been accidentally nutted in the back of the head by Zouma, the pair contesting a high ball. He’s up again quickly enough, good to go.
15 min: Kante is close to sliding Havertz clear down the middle, but his precision pass is well read, just in time, by Maguire.
13 min: Jorginho passes long down the right. Werner nearly latches onto the ball, but Maguire gets across in time to head away from danger. Neither team are prepared to risk too much in attack right now, perhaps mindful of their recent defensive travails.
11 min: United stroke it around awhile, not to any great effect. Both teams very much putting the feelers out at the minute.
9 min: It’s all a bit too fast at the minute. Passing sequences are at a premium right now.
7 min: It’s nice and open. Fernandes and Mata nearly open Chelsea up with a crisp one-two down the right, but Zouma gets in the road.
5 min: Pulisic drives at United down the inside-left channel. He’s got the chance to spring Werner clear through the middle, but opts to dribble his way into a shooting position. His notions of scoring are checked by Wan-Bissaka, who aquaplanes across to block.
3 min: Jorginho launches long. Lindelof stands tall against Werner to clear the danger. I hope they’ve fixed that hole in the Old Trafford roof.
2 min: The conditions are horrendous. The rain’s been hosing down for hours, and the pitch is very heavy as a result. Plenty of scope for slapstick shenanigans. Everyone quite literally finding their feet in these opening exchanges. Take care, everyone!
Chelsea get the ball rolling … but not before everyone takes a knee. Black lives matter. There’s no room for racism. The visitors will be kicking towards the Stretford End in this first half.
The teams are out! United are in their famous red, Chelsea their storied blue. The weather in Manchester is, well, positively Mancunian … the rain is sheeting down. We’ll be off in a minute or two. “In a season where making predictions is turning out to be a fool’s errand, there is one result that can already be called – the Guardian footballer of the Year,” writes Vibhanshu Bisht. “Unless Alisson emerges from his injury break with a Covid vaccine that he tested on himself and then gives it away for free.” There’s a lot of love around for Marcus Rashford all right, and every last bit of it richly deserved. What a seriously impressive young man. (And while we’re on the subject, here’s a quick reminder about the donation page for Gorse Hill packed lunches, as explained in this MBM’s preamble.)
Frank Lampard talks his Chelsea team up … with caveats. “We’re doing OK. We can do better, without a doubt. We’re seeing across the league that teams are trying to find form, and we’re one of those, but our result in midweek was good because you saw a team that was solid. That’s what we’ve been striving for. But we can do better. Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem, but we’re coming to a very good team so we have to get both sides of our game right. We’re making relationships through the team so I expect progression with that. We must play with a real organisation and be confident. We know we can give Manchester United – any team – a problem.”
Should Manchester United be defeated today, they’ll equal an unwanted club record by losing their first three home games of the season. That was their fate in 1930-31, when they lost their first 12 matches straight. Their first three defeats at Old Trafford that season saw Aston Villa win 4-3, Huddersfield Town 6-0 and Newcastle United 7-4. And you thought the Spurs debacle was bad. United were unsurprisingly relegated at the end of the campaign, and manager Herbert Bamlett was sent on his way. This fiasco seems to be Bamlett’s legacy, which is slightly unfair seeing he took unfashionable Oldham Athletic to the brink of the title in 1915, but this is where we all are.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has kept his team together since Paris, staying in a hotel last night. “It was something that we wanted to do this time, keep everyone together. The atmosphere has been good, so we want to keep it going. Sometimes you have to reward players who play well, and there are a few players who deserve to be in the team. This set-up was the best we felt. You go through different scenarios, and the team that played in Paris also deserved to play again. But of course Anthony is suspended so we had to change a little bit. Every substitute is match-dependant. I hope to get Cavani on in a comfortable position, but if it is a precarious situation he’ll be a threat because he has looked really good in training.”
Pre-match reading. These two have a habit of racking up the goals. Here are a few blasts from the past as we while away the time before kick-off.
Harry Maguire is back, baby. He’s one of three changes to Manchester United from the XI named against PSG midweek. Juan Mata and Dan James also return. Making way: Alex Telles, Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe. The latter has our permission to feel a little miffed at being stood down after his excellent performance up against Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Alongside him on the bench: Edinson Cavani, who could make his United debut this afternoon.
There’s just one change to the Chelsea side from the team picked for the goalless draw with Sevilla. The captain Cesar Azpilicueta returns; Mason Mount drops to the bench.
Manchester United: de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Mata, Bruno Fernandes, James, Rashford.
Subs: Pogba, Cavani, Greenwood, Henderson, Matic, van de Beek, Tuanzebe.
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Zouma, James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell, Havertz, Pulisic, Werner.
Subs: Rudiger, Abraham, Caballero, Kovacic, Giroud, Mount, Ziyech.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Welcome to our live coverage of Marcus Rashford v The Man. “Gorsehill is in spitting distance of Old Trafford,” begins Judith Mellor. “The Primary School is down the road from the ground. It is a rainbow nation of a school. My daughter (who is a teacher) will be volunteering for ‘Gorsehill Mums with Limited Funds’, which will be organising packed lunches for local schoolkids next week during half term. These are mums with limited funds helping those with no funds. There is a GoFundMe page.”
We’ll also be keeping tabs on Manchester United v Chelsea, one of the blue-riband fixtures of English football. United did the double over Chelsea last season, winning 4-0 at Old Trafford and 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, but the Blues got some revenge in the semi-final of the FA Cup with a comprehensive 3-1 victory. There are often goals when these two meet, and hopefully that’ll be the case today, with plenty of attacking talent on show and neither defence exactly on top of their game.
Hope for United: the aforementioned Rashford has four goals in his last three appearances against Chelsea. Hope for Chelsea: United have lost their first two home matches of the season to an aggregate score of 9-2. Hope for us all: Rashford again. Kick off’s at 5.30pm. It’s on!