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How Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard combined to halt Chelsea’s title march

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The Premier League title race was blown wide open as Manchester United stunned Chelsea with a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Antonio Conte’s league leaders were well beaten by Jose Mourinho’s resurgent Red Devils side, with goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera ensuring the gap at the top of the table remains at just four points.

Mourinho’s tactical set-up prior to the match came under much scrutiny, with the majority suggesting that a ‘weaker’ team selection signified the Portuguese head coach’s intention to prioritise United’s progression in the Europa League.

Nonetheless, if the lesson hasn’t previously be learnt; we should never write off a Mourinho side – no matter how under-strength.

Rather than folding over at the hands of the Champions-elect, the Manchester United eleven carried out their manager’s master plan to perfection, and instead emerged with a much-deserved three points.

This was a victory that maintained the host’s challenge for Champions League qualification while blowing the race for the title wide open.

Key to the Red Devils’ success was homegrown duo Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.

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With Mourinho looking to nullify a Chelsea side that has been so successful this season, the former Academy prospects proved a potent attacking force. Instructed to play as a front-two, in a 3-5-2 system, the pair ensured Chelsea’s defenders experienced a torrid afternoon at the office.

Despite being the away side, Chelsea will have been considered the more dominant team as they fell to a second successive defeat. Indeed, Antonio Conte’s side enjoyed 53.8% of the possession on Sunday afternoon, while completing 369 passes in comparison to United’s 314.

Mourinho will have been fully aware of this outcome, and he set up his side to counter, as a result. Knowing the visitors would experience the lion’s share of the ball, United would rely on the pace and athleticism of Rashford and Lingard to attack in behind Chelsea’s back-three.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing the lone centre-forward role – as he has done for much of the season – this would not have been possible.

Mourinho, being the astute thinker that he is, opted against familiarity, giving his homegrown attackers the opportunity to perform for the Old Trafford faithful, and they repaid his faith.

Jesse Lingard’s heat map versus Chelsea.

Lingard and Rashford have grown up through the Manchester United Academy ranks together and have seemingly struck un unbreakable bond, both on and off the pitch. The telepathic-like understanding between them was evident in their passing and movement, which was excellent throughout.

Rashford proved a menace down the right-hand channel, taking on both David Luiz and Gary Cahill, while Lingard played a more nomadic role. Tasked with creating space for his strike partner, the latter’s persistent movement displaced Chelsea’s centre-backs, allowing Rashford to perform his responsibilities between the lines.

Granted, Rashford was aided by the absence of Marcos Alonso at left-back for Chelsea, which left the visitors considerably more vulnerable down this side, but he must be credited for playing his role to perfection.

Instructed to run in behind Chelsea’s defence at every given opportunity, Rashford’s efforts paid dividends within the first ten minutes. Latching onto a perfect through ball played by Ander Herrera, the England international broke free of Luiz, before firing a low finish past Asmir Begovic in the Blues’ goal.

Marcus Rashford struck the opening goal against Chelsea after just seven minutes.

An often underappreciated aspect of Marcus Rashford’s game is his ability to compete on a physical level. Not only is he lightning fast, the 19-year-old possesses brute strength which enables him to go toe-to-toe with the top flight’s most accomplished defenders.

On multiple occasions at Old Trafford, he could be seen tussling – and coming out on top – against David Luiz and co. On one occasion, he showed surprising strength to hold off Luiz and N’Golo Kante before drawing a diving save from Asmir Begovic.

Following Lingard’s substitution in the second-half, Rashford found himself left to his own devices in the final third. Despite being isolated for much of this time, the 19-year-old continued to hold his own against Chelsea’s back-three – even causing further problems for them as the game moved into its dying embers.

Rashford completed four of seven attempted take ons against Chelsea’s experienced defence.

Responsible for providing the firepower in the most exciting match Old Trafford has witnessed for some time, the combined performance of Lingard and Rashford will not be soon forgotten. The pace and movement of the duo offered the sort of threat that troubled Chelsea instantly while offering a return to the attacking days of old.

Manchester United came into this game having scored 46 times, 17 fewer than any other member of the Premier League’s top six and just one more than Bournemouth. Nonetheless, this frontline display – put on by the Red Devils academy duo – provided a gentle reminder of the abundant potential at Jose Mourinho’s disposal.

Whether the Portuguese head coach will opt to deploy the duo as a strike partnership again, prior to the end of the season, remains to be seen. Nonetheless, this performance against the current Premier League leaders will have been enough to prove to the Old Trafford boss that he has a very effective ‘Plan B’, should he so require.

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Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Chelsea

Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments

The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.

Jamie Watts

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.

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“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”

Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.

And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.

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Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages

The owner may have to sell shares in the club.

Jamie Watts

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Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Telegraph.

Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.

The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.

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His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.

Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.

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Chelsea

England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics

England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments

Jamie Watts

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Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.

The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.

“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.

Photo: Getty Images

And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.

The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.

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The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.

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