MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for Erik ten Hag with Champions League qualification confirmed.
Now after Sunday’s final game of the season at Old Trafford it will be mission impossible.
His task, should he choose to accept it, is to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup Final.
Just as in the famous series and films it seems a ridiculously difficult problem to solve.
Ten Hag will point to the victory here in the derby on January 14th as proof it can be done.
But Pep Guardiola’s men have lost only once since then in all competitions, a run of 25 games.
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They have built up a head of steam that promises to take the blue trophy winning machine through Wembley and to Istanbul to complete a treble.
While they have already won at Wembley once this season in the Carabao Cup Final, it is a shame for the Red Devils they can’t play the game here where the fortress has been rebuilt.
They have not lost at Old Trafford in the league since the opening day of the season and victory on Sunday will see them equal a club record 27 wins at home in all competitions this season.
They only needed a point to confirm their place in the top four but, orchestrated by the brilliant Casemiro, they waltzed to victory.
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At the same time they shuffled past Newcastle into third by two points with just that final game left.
It was always going to be too easy against a lamentable Chelsea outfit who have now lost eight of Frank Lampard’s ten games in charge.
His final farewell from Stamford Bridge this Sunday promises to be very different to his first when he departed as the club’s greatest ever goalscorer.
Mind you the chants of ‘Super Franky Lampard’ from the away fans suggests they don’t blame him for this sorry slide.
They were already confirmed to finish in the bottom half before this game and could end the season as low as 14th.
Lampard made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 on coronation day at The Etihad last Sunday.
Out went Raheem Sterling, who had a slight injury concern, Thiago Silva and Ruben Loftus-Cheeks replace by Mykhaylo Mudryk, Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke.
It meant at an average age of 23 years 238 days this was the youngest starting eleven for Chelsea in Premier League history.
Mind you it didn’t matter who in this expensive bloated squad played, they all downed tools some time ago.
Their resistance here lasted only six minutes.
Casemiro had rescued a point at Stamford Bridge last October with a looping header in injury time.
And he used his head to outwit Chelsea again here.
Christian Eriksen’s delivery from a free-kick was perfect for him to rise highest and nod the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
He would help set up number two as well in first-half injury time with a superb clipped through ball with the outside of his right boot to release Jadon Sancho.
The winger rolled a pass to the unmarked Anthony Martial at the far post who couldn’t miss.
Before that on 24 minutes there had been the sad sight of Antony being stretchered off after twisting his ankle after a challenge from Trevoh Chalobah.
That looks like him out the Cup Final. The good news for United fans is that after missing two games with injury and illness top scorer Marcus Rashford was on to replace him.
He showed no effects from his short absence and would add a goal to his career best tally for a season and reach the 30 mark.
United came close to a third just after the break when Sancho teed up Bruno Fernandes whose thunderous shot crashed off the angle.
He would get on the score sheet in the 72nd minute slotting home the penalty he had won.
After converting the kick there was some pushing and shoving between the two sets of players as Chelsea’s frustrations boiled over.
It was Fofana’s outstretched boot that had conceded the kick on a nightmare night for him.
Having also lost Casemiro for the opener his loose pass across his own box on 78 minutes then set up the Red Devils’ fourth.
Fernandes profited picking it up and laying on an assist for Marcus Rashford who followed up after seeing his first shot parried.
Chelsea would get a consolation in the 89th minute with a great run and finish from Joao Felix leading to ironic chants of ‘we’ve scored a goal from the away fans’.
Only relegation-threatened Everton, rock bottom Southampton and Wolves have less than their 37 in the league this season.
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Chelsea’s players are not physically on the beach but their fans probably wished they were.
As for United the sunnier climes of European football in the Champions League await once more.
Source: Soccer - thesun.co.uk