Man Utd 0, Chelsea 1
The chances of Rafael Benitez ever becoming Manchester United manager may be as likely as David Cameron leading the United Kingdom Independence Party into the next General Election.
But when it comes to outwitting United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, Chelsea’s interim manager takes some beating.
Having seen his team come back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 in their FA Cup quarter-final in March, and then win the subsequent replay 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea became the third team to win a Premier League game at Old Trafford this season.
Benitez was also Liverpool manager when United lost 4-1 to the Anfield side at home in March, 2009.
This was also the first time that United have failed to score in the league at Old Trafford in 67 games.
Juan Mata’s 86th minute shot, which went in off United’s Phil Jones, gave Chelsea the points and put them in pole position to finish third in the table,but this was a desperately poor game.
Chances were few and far between – unlike misplaced passes – and there was a niggling undercurrent for much of the game.
It boiled over in the 89th minute when United right-back Rafael Da Silva was sent off for kicking Chelsea’s David Luiz.
As the two Brazilians battled for the ball on the right touchline, Luiz twice attempted to elbow Rafael away.
The frustrated Rafael then kicked out at the Chelsea defender as the ball went over the goal-line.
Assistant referee Sian Massey signalled to referee Howard Webb and was seen to mouth the words “yellow card”, but Mr Webb showed red instead.
After going to ground, Luiz was seen to smile, while his Chelsea team-mate Oscar motioned an imaginary red card before Mr Webb.
Chelsea looked the more determined of the two sides throughout.
They were tighter at the back, more threatening up front and far more creative in midfield where Frank Lampard, Ramires, Mata and Oscar overpowered and outclassed their United counterparts Jones, Anderson, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs.
In a first half littered with errors, the best chance fell to Chelsea in the 14th minute.
United captain Patrice Evra lost the ball on a forward foray, leaving Oscar to race clear down the right.
The Brazilian was allowed to reach the United box unhindered before getting in a shot which United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard pushed on to a post before collecting the rebound.
A couple of crosses and a Robin van Persie header apart, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was rarely troubled.
If the first half was poor, the second was even worse.
But, with four minutes left, a Ramires back heel set up Oscar to find Mata unmarked on the left side of the United penalty area and his shot from 12 yards was deflected into the net off Jones.
Ferguson said: “There was no edge to the game and Chelsea deserved to win.
“The goal was a bit lucky with a deflection off Phil Jones.
“Rafael was elbowed twice, but the player who retaliates always gets punished. It was not violent conduct, but the referee did not see it and Luiz rolled over several times.”
Benitez said: “It was a difficult game. When you have won the league, you don’t have the incentive which we had because we want to finish third.
“I didn’t see the incident for the sending off, but it will not change anything.”