Good afternoon! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for the last of today's trio of Premier League matches, and it is a huge one in the race for a top-four spot as Manchester United
at Old Trafford! It is a race no-one seems to want to win at the moment with Spurs and Arsenal having already lost this weekend, leaving these two teams both looking to steal a march today. They have each dropped points themselves recently, though, with United in particularly poor form having lost seven of their last nine games across all competitions. Kickoff is just around the corner, so let's have a quick rundown of the team news before we get started...
MAN UTD STARTING XI:
De Gea; Young, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata; Lukaku, Rashford
SUBS: Rojo, Martial, Sanchez, Pereira, McTominay, Darmian, Romero
CHELSEA STARTING XI:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Higuain, Hazard
SUBS: Christensen, Zappacosta, Giroud, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Pedro, Caballero
KICKOFF: Manchester United get us underway at Old Trafford!
Chelsea are quickly on the front foot and an early spell of possession ends with Hazard firing a dangerous low ball into the box which almost leaves Kante with a clear chance, but Shaw gets across well to make an important interception.
CHANCE! United respond with a big chance of their own as one long pass forward from Shaw beats the entire defence and releases Lukaku through on goal. The striker takes too long over his finish, though, and his eventual effort is well saved by Kepa.
Good football from Rashford down the right as he exchanges passes with a couple of teammates on his way into the box, throwing some good skill into the mix too before he is dispossessed.
It has been an encouraging start to this match, with both sides looking to get forward quickly when they have the ball. Both seem to have settled straight away.
United are seeing more and more of the ball now as they try to gain a stranglehold on the game. Chelsea are struggling to get any prolonged spell of possession at the moment.
GOAL! MAN UTD 1-0 CHELSEA (JUAN MATA)
GOAL! United mark their bright start with the opening goal, and it is a really well-worked one from the hosts too. Pogba pokes the ball inside for Lukaku, who chips a delightful pass over the defence to find the marauding Luke Shaw. Shaw's pass inside is to no-one in particular, but Mata picks it up and fires home against his former club.
After initially getting on the front foot in the opening minutes, Chelsea have really struggled since then. Defensively they look very shaky when United are getting forward.
Here is that opening goal - and one which included a couple of important contributions from ex-Chelsea players too...
Herrera is a little fortunate to get away without a booking here as he trips Hazard after the Chelsea man had glided past him. Free kick to Chelsea in shooting range...
SHOT! Alonso takes it ahead of Willian and Luiz, but curls the 30-yard strike comfortably over the crossbar.
SHOT! Poor effort from Jorginho as he tries his luck with a first-time strike from range, curling his shot high and wide of the target.
Mata in good company alongside Sparky!
SHOT! Jorginho tries to channel his inner Paul Scholes as a corner is floated straight to him on the edge of the box and he goes for a volley first time. He does not connect with it properly, though, and it ends up going well wide.
Chelsea are just beginning to pose more of a threat now and they have seen a lot more of the ball in the last 10 minutes or so.
United are almost gifted a second goal in calamitous fashion as Rudiger heads a corner right into the back of Alonso's head, sending the ball bouncing into a dangerous area. Azpilicueta is alert, though, to hack it clear.
CLOSE! Bailly almost marks his return to the team with a goal as he attacks a corner really well, beating Alonso in the air but steering his header narrowly wide of the target.
To their credit, United are not playing like a team that has lost seven of their last nine games in all competitions. You get the sense that both of these teams feel this is a real opportunity today.
Another slick move from United down the right as Mata darts to the byline before delivering the cross, but it is too close to the keeper.
It is far too easy for United to almost get in behind here as Matic slides a pass through to Rashford, who is lots of space down the left channel. Rashford cannot make the most of a good attacking platform as Rudiger gets back, but it was so simple for the hosts.
Matic is lucky to get away with one here as he hands Azpilicueta off, catching his former teammate in the face with his forearm. The referee does not even award a foul, but in retrospect it probably should be a yellow card.
Mata swings a dangerous cross in towards the back post, but Alonso is alert and puts hit behind for a corner. Mata is pulling the strings for United today, though.
Free kick to United in a good crossing position here as Pogba skips away from Azpilicueta before going down under his challenge. Can they add a second before half time?
Young swings another deep cross towards the back post which Bailly is attacking, but the ball is just too high for him.
YELLOW CARD! Herrera picks up the first card of the game for a mistimed sliding challenge on Alonso.
GOAL! MAN UTD 1-1 CHELSEA (MARCOS ALONSO)
GOAL! Ohhh it is another howler from De Gea to gift Chelsea an equaliser! This should be bread and butter for a goalkeeper of his quality, but he seems to be completely void of confidence at the moment. Rudiger goes for goal from range and it is more or less straight at De Gea, but he fumbles it into a dangerous area and Alonso is following up well to convert the rebound in off the post.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 CHELSEA
We are all square at half time at Old Trafford following an entertaining opening 45 minutes between Manchester United and Chelsea, although the hosts will feel that they deserve to be in front. United did have the better of much of the half, but another big mistake from De Gea has given Chelsea a route back into the game.
The opening goal arrived after only 11 minutes when Juan Mata came back to haunt his former club, firing home after a slick passing move from the hosts. Lukaku's scooped pass over the defence for Shaw was particularly easy on the eye, and the full-back then cut the ball back into the middle for Mata to slide home.
For much of the half it was United who looked most likely to add to the scoring, but Chelsea levelled things up on the stroke of half time as Alonso capitalised on a huge De Gea mistake. Rudiger's long-range effort should have been simple for the keeper to gather, but he spilled it and Alonso had followed in to fire his finish in off the inside of the post.
Lukaku and Bailly have also come close for United, while Chelsea had largely been limited to efforts from range before that equaliser. On the whole United will be relatively pleased with their overall performance, but only a win will do for them today and so they need to start throwing caution to the wind in the second half.
KICKOFF: Chelsea get us underway for the second half at Old Trafford!
SAVE! Rashford goes for goal with a 30-yard free kick and it bounces just in front of Kepa to make it a little more awkward, but the keeper hangs on to it - just as De Gea should have done!
YELLOW CARD! Willian picks up a yellow card for a sliding challenge on Mata, but the replay shows that he got a touch on the ball first. Harsh one for the Brazilian.
YELLOW CARD! Kovacic joins Willian in the book, and it is such a needless one as he kicks the ball away after tripping Herrera.
CHANCE! Half a chance from the resulting free kick as the ball goes all the way through to Bailly, whose first touch is good but second is a tame shot which Kepa gathers.
A draw is a much better result for Chelsea than it is for United today, so the onus really is on the hosts to push for a winner in this second half.
SAVE! Willian drills a low strike towards the near post which De Gea saves, prompting a cheer from the crowd and a pat on the back from Lindelof. It was an easy enough save, but they are clearly trying to give him his confidence back.
Kovacic is walking a bit of a disciplinary tightrope at the moment. He is already on a yellow card and he has gone into a couple of risky challenges in the last few minutes.
Concern for Chelsea here as Rudiger goes down and stays down. He is helped off the field and it does not look like he will be able to continue here.
Christensen only went out for a little jog up the touchline as Rudiger was limping off then, which means he is not ready to come on before the game restarts. Chelsea are playing with 10 men here.
CHELSEA SUB: There is the change finally as Christensen replaces Rudiger.
MAN UTD SUB: United also make a change as Alexis Sanchez comes on for Rashford, who seems to be limping a little.
Bailly is in a lot of pain here, and this looks like it could be ligament damage if it is as bad as it seems. A Chelsea fell into his leg and there is a lot of concern for the centre-back at the moment.
The stretcher is on as the concern for Bailly continues to grow - it looks like he could be facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines here having only just returned to the fold.
MAN UTD SUB: Bailly refuses the stretcher, but needs two staff members to help him off and on comes Marcos Rojo in his place.
SHOT! Chelsea have a free kick in a shooting position after all that but Willian curls his free kick over the bar. Not the worst effort, but he had to try to test De Gea there.
De Gea has had very little to do since his mistake at the end of the first half, and it could be worth Chelsea just having a couple of cracks from distance just to test the Spaniard again with clear chances hard to come by right now.
CHELSEA SUB: Another change for Chelsea sees Ruben Loftus-Cheek replace Kovacic.
A draw doesn't really do anything for United in the top-four race
as they would still be three adrift of Chelsea with only two games remaining and an inferior goal difference. The hosts have little choice but to push for a winner in the closing stages.
YELLOW CARD! Rojo launches himself into a couple of heavy challenges in quick succession, the first seems him clatter into Higuain before then putting in a really bad tackle on Willian. He is fortunate to escape with only a yellow for that - it was a naughty one!
MAN UTD SUB: Scott McTominay replaces Mata for the closing stages of this match.
Willian may not be able to continue after all. He hasn't been able to shake off that challenge from Rojo and is not moving at all freely right now.
CHELSEA SUB: A third and final change for Chelsea as Pedro replaces Willian.
Just five minutes left in this match now and United have shown nowhere near enough in this second half. They were the better side in the first half, but there has been none of the urgency you would expect to push for a winner in this second half yet.
A glimpse of goal for Pedro as he shoots from a tight angle, but again they do not test De Gea and the ball flies well over the crossbar.
YELLOW CARD! Young goes into the book for throwing the ball away after Chelsea were awarded a free kick which he felt should have gone United's way.
There will, of course, be lots of injury time at the end of this match with four players having limped off in this second half alone.
SEVEN minutes of stoppage time, in fact!
OFF THE LINE! United almost rescue a valuable win in stoppage time as Rojo - who shouldn't be on the pitch - rises highest inside the area to meet a corner and plants a header towards goal. Pedro - the man who replaced Willian after the Brazilian was forced off by Rojo's tackle - is back on the line to clear, though.
Chelsea's shooting has been so wayward today. Loftus-Cheek is the latest to try his luck, but he picks out the upper tier of Old Trafford.
Pressure from Chelsea now as they look to land a late hammer blow to United's top-four hopes, but again they cannot get a shot away.
CHANCE! Late, late chance for United as Pedro plays the ball through to Higuain, who this time stays onside and tries to lift his finish over De Gea, who stays big and makes an unorthodox - but vital - stop.
FULL TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 CHELSEA
That Higuain opening proves to be the final meaningful action of the match as United and Chelsea play out a 1-1 draw which does nothing for the home side's top-four hopes and leaves Chelsea in the driving seat for that final Champions League spot. Juan Mata gave the hosts the lead, but the headlines will be dominate by another David de Gea error which gifted Marcos Alonso the equaliser.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for today's Premier League clash as Manchester United and Chelsea play out a draw which leaves the Red Devils facing an uphill battle to finish in the top four this season. I will leave you with our match report
, and be sure to stick around for reaction too. From me, though, it is goodbye for now!