Juan Mata's late goal moved Chelsea into third place while Rafael was sent off for a tepid Manchester United side
David Luiz and Nemanja Vidic are having a healthy debate on the halfway line. Eventually Petr Cech acts the diplomat, calming it all down, although we should be thankful for that flurry at the end. For 87 minutes or so, that was a very sleepy match but Juan Mata's winner and Rafael's red card sparked it belatedly into life. Once all the nonsense is forgotten, the only important thing is that Chelsea have won. The three points move them into third place, a point above Arsenal and three above Tottenham. Who they play on Wednesday. A big game, then. Thanks for reading. Bye.
90 min+5: I don't think Luiz cheated, mind you. Rafael's challenge deserved a red. I think he was laughing at winding him up.
90 min+4: Chelsea clear it and break, Ramires eventually shooting wide from 25 yards out.
90 min+3: Lampard catches Hernandez near the halfway line. United will fling this into the area. And Ivanovic will head it away, only for Torres to stupidly concede another free-kick with a barge.
90 min+1: There will be four minutes of added time.
90 min: Javier Hernandez is on - I missed for who - and so is Ake, replacing Mata.
89 min: This is ludicrous. It's all gone off here. We thought it was David Luiz who had lost his head, but instead it was another Brazilian, Rafael. The two tussled over possession down in the right corner, with David Luiz edging their battle. He dug an elbow into Rafael's chest and the pair continued to snap away at each other, before Rafael eventually decided to boot Luiz up into the air with a petty swing at his legs from behind. Luiz went flying. And smiled as he looked behind him. Very Busquets. After a lengthy exchange of views, Howard Webb sends Rafael off for. He lashed out. He knows.
Mata's back to Ketchup and Chelsea probably deserve this. They've just about shaded this match, which has been sponsored by Ketamine. The move started with Ramires bursting through the middle, only to check back when he should have shot. It seemed everything had petered out, but he played it back to Oscar, who instantly found Mata in space on the left of the area with a lovely pass. He took a touch and although he didn't quite catch his shot, it took a deflection off Jones and trickle into the far corner.
86 min: David Luiz needs to calm down. He's rightly miffed not to have been awarded a throw-in on the left after the ball came off Van Persie last but he takes his protests too far, and eventually gets a booking for dissent. It was only a throw-in.
83 min: It's not quite inside the D. And it only looked threatening. Luiz, not Mata, takes it and clunks in well off-target with his right foot. "How would one know what kissing your sister is like?" says Peter Young. "By kissing her, of course. You miss the point. You kiss your sister on the cheek or the forehead and because she’s your sister you don’t get a charge from it other than filial love. That’s why a draw is like kissing your sister, and I can’t think of a better way to put it." I think my sister would kill me if I tried any of that.
82 min: Here, Chelsea have a free-kick in an even more threatening position, Evra bundling Mata over inside the D. Luiz will take this one in that unique style of his.
81 min: Chelsea get the corner away and once they try to break, Jones cynically pulls Ramires back. He's booked.
80 min: At last United quicken the pace. Giggs teases a gaggle of Chelsea defenders on the right and a loose touch sees the ball run into the path of Rafael, who escapes Cole and bursts into the area. He could either pull it back to Rooney or across to Van Persie. He chooses the latter but his cross deflects off Ivanovic's heel and into the side-netting.
78 min: One corner becomes two corners. Two become three, the ball flying over via a combination of Lindegaard's gloves and Ivanovic's head. But three becomes one free-kick, Webb blowing for a foul on the United keeper. He responds by giving the referee a hearty slap on the back.
77 min: This is the closest Chelsea have come for a long time. Lampard curls a brilliant cross to the far post from the right and Mata throws himself at it, but can't get his eyebrows to the ball. Agonising. The ball is eventually defected wide for a corner.
76 min: The mask is on. Fernando Torres is also on. He's booed on. Victor Moses is off. "I once called the office to tell them I wasn't coming in that day," says Adam Levine. "The secretary asked me how sick I was. Well, said I, I just shagged my sister. I'm here all week. Try the Chilean sea bass."
75 min: Buttner catches Azpilicueta with a stray arm to the face. Yaroo! "The most frustrating thing about the game for me is Anderson," says Nick Thompson. "I really think he could work well with Carrick and Cleverley, but he never gets the chance and then when he does he is so inconsistent. Really can't decide if he needs more time playing or more time at a different club." The latter, I suspect. How long do you give him?
73 min: Valencia's cross is headed over by Rooney. It was an awkward chance. "RE: Anderson doing a Marathon... they've been called Snickers for more than 20 years now and I'm sure there are many who've seen Anderson do more than one," says Adam Simpson.
72 min: After a United attack breaks down, Chelsea attack with a six-on-four situation. Lampard tries to play Cole in on the left but he's denied by a magnificent challenge from Jones, who timed that to perfection. United attack and Ivanovic slices Rafael's cross out for a corner.
71 min: Another nearly moment for Chelsea. Mata slips a pass round the back for Ramires on the right. He's clean through in the area, if a little wide, but his cross is deflected and pounced upon by Lindegaard.
69 min: And Wayne Rooney replaces Anderson, who won't be adding to the 18 games that he's completed for United. I'd love to see Anderson do a marathon.
68 min: Alex Buttner replaces Tom Cleverley.
67 min: Now here is a free-kick for Chelsea in a promising position, Evra bringing Evra down 25 yards from goal, in a fairly central position. Luiz and Mata both stand over it. The Brazilian has scored a few stormers this season, Mata scored one against United earlier in the season. But there's no repeat. He curls this effort straight into the wall. Hopes dashed.
66 min: Gadzooks. It's getting to the stage where no one can do anythign right. First Mata sends Azpilicueta too wide on the right and his cross is too close to Lindegaard, who chucks it out to Giggs, whose first touch prangs 10 yards away from him and out for a throw.
65 min: This calls for a substitution. Get Buttner on.
64 min: What has happened to Valencia's crossing? He's sent another one straight at Cech. He's been so out of touch this season. A total loss of confidence, although you have to admire the fact that he's refused to hide all season.
63 min: This is threatening to become awful. Someone needs to do something. Anything.
60 min: Wayne Rooney is having a word in John Terry's ear as the pair warm up. Isn't that nice? Gary Neville reckons the conversation is along the lines of "Where are you going tonight, mate?"
59 min: There's not a lot of love for Ian Wright's commentary in my inbox. I'm fine though, I've got Gary Neville in my ears. "If there's one person who's worse to listen to than Gus Johnson, it's Ian Wright (Gus's co-commentator today)," says Adam Keeing. "I don't think there's anyone else out there who has single-handedly destroyed the English language as much as Ian Wright. I pressed the mute button in the second minute..."
57 min: Chelsea have the hot funk on after another decision from Webb goes United's way. Mata was about to run at the United defence, with options left and right, and was about to get all excited before play was pulled back for a foul on Rafael.
56 min: Lampard sure wants that goalscoring record. Mata runs off the back of Giggs after a throw from the right and tees up the onrushing Lampard, who's too onrushing, ballooning his effort well over the bar on the run. A decent chance for a finisher of his quality.
55 min: "Comfortably the best and most sensible use of the 'kissing your sister' idiom is spoken by a penguin," says Jordan Pickering.
53 min: Neat interplay between Mata and Lampard almost releases Ba, but Evans comes across to boot the ball away. Chelsea are the better side but they need to take more care in the final third. "I doubt Chelsea winning would have any impact on United's reputation," says Niall Mullen. "It's a bit like the bit of Deal or No Deal after the deal. No-one really cares and it doesn't affect what you've won. As someone once said, the best teams wins, the rest is just gossip."
52 min: What a waste. United break at speed, Jones and Valencia leading the charge forward with Chelsea having committed too many men forward. Valencia pokes a pass out to the right for Jones, who's got acres of space to attack. He could shoot but instead tries to find Van Persie at the far post. His cross is dreadful.
51 min: Howard Webb hasn't done his reputation for favouring United much good here. On the right, David Luiz chested a pass beyond Ryan Giggs, who put his arm on Luiz's shoulder and pulled him down. Luiz fell in the area but the foul was actually just outside. Not that it mattered, because Webb inexplicably didn't blow his whistle. Chelsea are furious and rightly so.
50 min: And indeed Mata does start another Chelsea attack, knocking a pass down the line for Moses. He slides a cross towards the near post where Ramires is waiting, but Evans diverts it behind.
49 min: Juan Mata has been comfortably Chelsea's best player this season but this has been a poor game by his standards. It's like Mata Katsup. So far.
48 min: Valencia decides to end another tedious spell of Chelsea possession, stepping in to win the ball back before breaking up the right flank, away from Ashley Cole. He clips the ball through to Van Persie but Luiz steps up in time to catch him offside.
47 min: "Henry was arguably the greatest striker of the last decade yet still a rather preposterous one trick pony of a finisher with that infuriatingly predictable pass to the far corner," says Phil Podolsky. "Go figure. Also, go and read this, it is great and inspiring. Good guys do win sometimes."
46 min: And here we go again. United get the game going with a kick-off that was a bit like kissing your brother. Wait, I think I've shared too much.
"Kissing your sisterr efers to an American football coach who said that a tie (draw) is like kissing your sister," says Keith Hart. There are probably better ways to phrase it. I mean ... how would you know what it's like in the first place?
Is that an Accidental Partridge from Tyler there?
Howard Webb ends the torpor. For 15 minutes anyway. "It's been a bit like kissing your sister," says Martin Tyler. Excuse me?
45 min: United muster one last attack. The ball's whipped in towards the near post from the left and Van Persie flashes a header straight at Cech.
44 min: Valencia dashes down the right. His cross isn't great, but Giggs darts in front of Azpilicueta. The ball's quite high up in the air, though, so Giggs has to improvise, his flying volley going miles wide. How old is he again?
43 min: Oscar goes for goal from the right. His shot isn't too far wide of the far post.
42 min: David Luiz strides forward - in the way that only David Luiz can stride forward - but there's no repeat of his recent Fulham and Basel exploits, his shot whizzing well wide. Up the other end, Giggs curves a delicious pass around Luiz, looking for Van Persie, who's peeled away from Van Persie. The ball bounces up invitingly for Van Persie to try to flick it over Cech, but he can only knock it wide of the right post from 12 yards out. Chance. Meanwhile Patrice Evra is limping after picking up a knock.
41 min: Jones juggernauts past Cole on the right but his cross is straight into Cech's body. The final ball has been lacking so far.
40 min: Ah, John Terry's out to warm up. That's woken everyone up. He's being reminded about a penalty in Moscow and there are same chants of "Rio! Rio! Rio!" too. True, great city.
39 min: Chelsea look a bit tired after their 412 games in 14 days.
36 min: Mata has a shot from 20 yards out but there's not enough power on it and a deflection off Evans sees it run through to Lindegaard. "I think this game is actually more important to non-Man U fans: this is generally seen as a weak title-winning team, especially since they have looked second-best for long parts in games against City, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool," says Jamie Wills. "A Chelsea win at Old Trafford will pretty much convince fans that it was these teams ineptitude during the season that allowed such an easy title."
Really? United are already on the beach while Chelsea have something to play for. The important thing is they won most of the games in which they were second-best.
34 min: Another chance for United and this time it's wasted by Cleverley. Giggs rasped a firm cross into the six-yard box. Cech pushed it out but only as far as Cleverley, who blasted the ball into orbit from the edge of the area.
33 min: In the space of 30 seconds, Van Persie made a hot mess of two very presentable opportunities. First Cleverley did excellently to stick out a leg and direct a flick to Van Persie, who suddenly found himself one-on-one with Luiz. There was space on the left for Van Persie to attack, but for some reason he decided to lope at slow-motion towards the right, allowing another Chelsea defender to get back. When he did move to the left, his shot was blocked, spinning up into the air. But not out. Chelsea couldn't get the ball clear but Van Persie's cross from the left ended up floating out into nothingness.
32 min: Chelsea are controlling the game, which will certainly please Rafa Benitez, but they could do with a bit more zip. United are playing at a stroll, so they're there for the taking if Chelsea inject some urgency into their attacks.
30 min: Ba cuts in from the left and tries to bend one into the far corner, managing to get his shot through Evans and Jones. However there was not enough bend on the shot, so it went a few yards wide. Ba claims it took a deflection but there's nothing doing by way of a corner.
28 min: Nothing. There's the short answer. But Chelsea keep coming and Lampard, after that record-breaking goal, slithers a drive straight at Lindegaard from 25 yards out.
27 min: A lengthy period of Chelsea possession - all very purpose, all a bit slow, ends with Jones sliding in on Oscar to concede a corner. So what can they do with this then? Something? Or nothing?
25 min: Azpilicueta hoicks a cross into the area but it's dismally overhit and Lindegaard is out to claim it. This game needs a goal. It's in danger of drifting. "I raise you 11 David Luiz’s versus 11 David Luiz’s," says Johnny Rose. "Not that I imagine it would stay 11 v 11 for long."
23 min: The United fans don't seem especially concerned about what's going on out there. There's very little tension around the ground. Maybe they should have brought the buckets and spades with them this afternoon, after all. United's players are kind of enjoying a well-earned snooze.
22 min: "11 Rafaels vs. 11 Rafaels would be more entertaining than any other single player," says Daniel Thomas. "He's bloody brilliant and great fun to watch." Maybe there are more twins out there.
21 min: This is a diverting game. Mata dinks another cross to the far post, where Rafael has to head behind under pressure from Moses. From the resultant corner, Lindegaard punches it away.
19 min: This is more like it from United. First Jones clips a lovely cross on the run into the middle from the right. It just evades Anderson at the far post. Giggs picks it up on the left and rolls it back to Cleverley, whose fierce effort is deflected wide by, er, Anderson. Poor Anderson.
18 min: Van Persie locates some space at last, isolating David Luiz on the right of the Chelsea area. Luiz gives him a bit too much room, allowing Van Persie to shift the ball on to his left, only for the striker to blaze his shot miles wide. It almost hits the corner flag. He's useless.
17 min: Chelsea are creating chance after chance. Duncan Jones slips in his own half, allowing Ramires to nip in and steal possession. He romps forward and shuffles the ball to the right for Mata, who immediately lays it back to Moses, who leans back as he shoots. The end result is predictable.
16 min: Ryan Giggs is playing. And he decides to remind us of his presence by holding off a challenge and then rolling a soft shot straight at Cech from the edge of the area.
14 min: Chelsea are having fun out there. The delightful Oscar runs at Vidic, who panics and backtracks furiously into the area. From 15 yards out, Oscar stabs a shot goalwards. Lindegaard dives down to his left and although he makes a bit of a mess of the save, pushing it on to the post and then grasping it, he more or less does the job.
13 min: Oscar dinks a pass over the top of the United defence but Mata can't bring it down. He's offside anyway. United's fans are amusing themselves by singing about kicking a Blue. Chelsea's are content with chanting Chelsea! Chelsea! Chelsea! over and over again. Or Chewseee Chewseeeee Chewseeeeeeee Chewseeeeeee, to give them their correct name.
11 min: Antonio Valencia has been horribly out of form this season so probably shouldn't try to cushion first-time crosses into the area on the volley. It ended up behind the goal. "Two Liverpool names for you," says Chris Owens. "Robbie Fowler (already mentioned, but a word about his being 'very left-footed': he was 'so one-sided' that he couldn't score goals such as these three: 2 mins 40 secs - so much pressure, and right in the corner, too, 20 secs, 1 min 4 secs ) The best I can remember: Liverpool vs. Leicester, 2001 - he scored a cracking volley just inside the box with his right foot."
9 min: It's an open game, this one. Van Persie chests Valencia's cross down for Cleverley, who uncleverley shoots well wide from 20 yards out. "JR in Illinois has my sympathy listening to Gus Johnson's inanities," says Justin Kavanagh. "No doubt he'll be using the Moses parting the red sea line today with great glee. Although he'll probably just shout a lot about his “get away from the cops speed.”
8 min: The excellent Rafael embarrasses Cole on the right, prodding the ball past him and darting into the area from the byline. His low cross into the six-yard box is pushed out by Cech and Luiz completes the clearance.
7 min: Now Ramires, who often impresses against United, has a dig from long range. Wide.
6 min: It's been a fairly sedate start, with Chelsea bossing much of the possession in the early exchanges. They're having some joy down their right flank too. David Luiz sprays a pass out to Azpilicueta on the right. He darts inside and shoots, only to hit Moses. It comes back to him, so he decides he'd better give it to Mata instead. Again he curls a cross to the far post, tempting Lindegaard to come. He can only claw it out as far as Ba, who tries to swivel and shoot into the empty net but under pressure he produces an air shot and United clear.
5 min: "Good point about Eduardo but most shocking part of that video was seeing Arshavin sprinting to keep the ball in play instead of letting it go for a corner," says Paul Bergin. "How times have changed. Ole's the best finisher in my book. VanNistelrooy scored more due to his intelligence in finding space. What's the story with Nani now? Fergie during the week was talking as though he'll be around next season." Nani is probably the best winger at United, but he seems to struggle a bit more when he's on the left, a position he has to play in when Valencia features.
3 min: United got pulled apart here. Moses and Mata tippy-tap the ball between them on the right flank, a clever pass from Moses finding Mata in space on the right of the United area. He cuts back on to his left foot and curls a cross into the six-yard box, where Ba is all alone. It's just too high for him though and he ends up bonking it high and wide. A better cross and Ba would have scored.
2 min: Chevrolet are the official sponsors of the seats in the dug-out, it would appear. Thanks to our sponsors. Anderson is having an influence in these early stages, and sends another pass out to Valencia on the right but he can't bring the ball down.
Here we go. Chelsea get the game going, kicking from right to left in the first half. Outrageously the teams are still being read out aqs the game starts. Anderson is strolling around the centre circle. He's looking fit. He's looking sharp. And here he is on the ball, sending Valencia away down the right flank. He centres it but Ivanovic halts Van Persie.
What a stat this is. Anderson has completed 18 games in six seasons at Manchester United. 18! How long will he last today?
Here come the teams. Hello teams! "My day is ruined," says JR in Illinois. "First I watched that miserable derby and now I have just realised that the announcer for this match is that jerkwad Gus Johnson. I'm guessing you've never heard him try to announce a soccer match (or maybe even ever heard of him). You should really do what you can to get a sample of his ineptitude. It's astounding. Also, since you made that crack about Scholes earlier how many people have written to you to call you a biased retard?" Well, just you actually. So thanks for that.
"Now I love Gary Nev, as a player, as a pundit and as a Red," says Adam Hirst. "He doesn’t come close to Roland Nilsson though, undoubtedly the best right-back of the Premier League era for me."
"Ole most definitely stands on his own when it comes to finishing, you'd be hard-pressed to find a scuffed effort or a scrappy goal from Baby Face," says TR Chandramouli. "I also think Eduardo deserves a mention here, for a brief time before that horror injury he was deadly within the penalty box on his left-foot."
What happened to Eduardo was such a shame. He was never the same after that injury and he was looking deadly around the time that he suffered it. But he was such a creative finisher. Look at this goal he scored against Burnley in 2009.
"Can't look past Ole really, Berba's another, he has wonderful composure and insouciance but is also prone to bad misses (City FA cup semi springs to mind)," says Patrick Wills. "Who would people rate as the best currently playing? Adam Le Fondre reminds me of Ole at times, wonderfully instinctive. As for right-backs, my completely unbiased vote is Dan Petrescu."
Right now? Probably Van Persie. The speed with which he gets his shots away is startling.
"It's early days yet, but if Hernandez continues his scoring rate (a goal every 96mins) he would have to be up there," says Rajiv. "Having said that, i would probably have Henry or van Nistelrooy as the best finisher."
There's not a great range with Hernandez. He's more of a poacher. Henry used to miss loads, like in the 2001 FA Cup final or the 2006 Champions League final.
"Good shout with regards to ole being the best ever finisher though as much as I hate to say this (as a utd fan) Robbie Fowler was quite a composed mass of man," says Daniel Beeler. "Also, one I get my mates with... Any better right back than Gary Neville in the prem? Harder than you think!"
Fowler's finishing was superb. He's certainly up there, although he was very left-footed. As for your right-back question, it's hard to look past Emmanuel Eboue.
That United team though. I wonder what Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas-Boas make of it.
Oh, and there's Paul Scholes on Manchester United's bench too, back after a lengthy spell out with a knee inury. If he retires again this summer, do they have to give him another eulogy or can they just use the same farewell cards they gave him two years ago? If anything, it's totally egotistical on the part of Scholes.
Here are the teams. Manchester United have left out David de Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, while John Terry is on the bench for Chelsea and Eden Hazard isn't risked after picking up a knock against Basel/Basle/Basil/Baaarrrllll on Thursday.
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Jones, Anderson, Cleverley, Giggs; Van Persie. Subs: De Gea, Buttner, Ferdinand, Scholes, Kagawa, Rooney, Hernandez.
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Oscar, Mata, Moses; Ba. Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Terry, Ake, Benayoun, Torres.
Referee: Howard Webb
Rob Smyth has just emailed me this amazing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goal from this fixture in 1997. One touch to control, another to ping a curler into the far corner with the next and earn United a 2-2 draw. Ridiculous. Is he the best finisher to have played in the Premier League? Not the best striker - but the best finisher?
It's weird, isn't it, getting excited about a race to finish in the top four. But that's where we're at, so you'd better get excited. We can more or less count Everton out of the running so it's between Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. Arsenal seem to have developed a bit of resilience in the last few months and have winnable games left, but it's not actually in their hands now. A lot's going to depend on what happens when Chelsea and
Gareth Bale Tottenham meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. But if Chelsea win this afternoon, you'd have to make them favourites.
Afternoon there. It's a funny thing, the male ego. Sir Alex Ferguson is 71 years old and Rafael Benitez is a strapping 53 and yet they still can't help rabbiting on at each other like two warring kids in the playground. What an example to set. Won't somebody please think of the children? They've actually got themselves into a little routine now, a comfort of sorts. They don't shake hands, they complain about not shaking hands, we analyse the non-shake of the hands and then move on to them not sharing a glass of wine, even though they don't like each other and would probably end up not shaking hands or something. Grown men, here, though the suspicion is that Ferguson is rather more effective at these mind games, if that's what we must call them, than Benitez, who seems a bit too sensitive to really pull it off. You can't take these things personally. Even if it is personal.
The enmity between the two managers at least means we could actually get a proper game this afternoon. Having wrapped up the league in double-quick time, Manchester United celebrated by turning up at Arsenal last Sunday wearing flip-flops, while armed with buckets, spades and beach-balls. Maybe today they'll go one further and just pour sand on the Old Trafford pitch. There's a fair chance that's not going to happen though. You've had your fun, now back to business. With thoughts already turning to next season, there are players at United who are playing for their futures at the club, while there must also be a desire to avenge the defeat to Chelsea in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
And although Chelsea are 20 points off United, an unacceptable state of affairs, they have actually fared well against them this season. They were unfortunate to lose the Mark Clattenburg Game back in October, they beat them in the League Cup, recovered from two goals down at Old Trafford in the FA Cup and then won the replay thanks to Demba Ba's powers of contortions. So Rafa's winning this little mini-series at the moment. He's actually been winning a lot recently. Maybe, just maybe, that RafaRant™ in February had the desired effect and Chelsea's fans will love him eventually? Well no. Jose Mourinho's still The One. But they won't be turning their noses up at a Europa League final against Benfica or a place in the top four. It could be worse. It's just ... Jose.
Kick-off: when the clock strikes 4PM.