Manchester United 0-6 Chelsea: Emma Hayes’ Chelsea farewell ends with fifth successive WSL title

Emma Hayes’ final game as Chelsea boss after a twelve-year tenure ended in jubilation on Saturday, as her side seized a 0-6 victory over Manchester United – and the Barclays Women’s Super League trophy – at Old Trafford.

The Blues had held pole position in the race to secure their fifth successive league triumph, confident in the knowledge that Manchester City would need to better their result by at least three goals to disrupt the farewell celebrations for Hayes. The 47-year-old will now take charge of the USWNT.

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As it happened

It took no time at all for Chelsea to strengthen their bid for silverware, with the WSL their only chance to see Hayes out on a high in her final season after United knocked the Blues out of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup last month.

Mary Earps was forced into an easy save from close range with just a minute on the clock at Old Trafford, but the goalkeeper was barely afforded time to regain composure before Guro Reiten broke free on the left flank.

The Norwegian forward netted four against Bristol City a fortnight ago to drag her side back into title contention, so it was perhaps fitting that it was her pinpoint delivery towards the back post that allowed Mayra Ramírez to rise above Millie Turner and nod home the opener.

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Marc Skinner’s Red Devils looked to respond as Ella Toone drove forward, playing in Lucia García. The duo were both heavily involved in United’s Wembley triumph last weekend, but García’s through ball for Lisa Naalsund carried a little too much weight.

Opportunities to score against a Chelsea side of this calibre are few and far between, and the hosts were made to pay for not taking their chances when the Blues doubled their lead with just eight minutes on the clock.

A poor Earps goal kick was nodded forwards by Melanie Leupolz, allowing Ramírez to spray a ball out wide for Johanna Rytting Kaneryd; the forward driving into the box and rolling an effort across the face of goal, and in off the far post.

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While the match remained end-to-end for the remainder of the half, there would be a notable lull in clear-cut chances – with an injury for Catarina Macário proving a much-needed opportunity to hydrate in the blazing Mancunian heat. The USWNT forward was replaced by Sjoeke Nüsken, a sign of Chelsea’s undeniable quality in depth.

The German needed just a matter of minutes to leave a lasting impact on the match, rolling the ball into an empty net for Chelsea’s third of the afternoon on the brink of half-time. Ramírez’s cutback, having got the better of Turner, was left to roll through the box by Reiten – allowing Nüsken to add to her impressive goal tally since signing for the Blues.

The first-half rout was not over there though. With six minutes of additional time signalled by the fourth official, Ramírez was able to jink past Naalsund in the box and fire a fierce effort across Earps to ripple the net. Chelsea looked like champions – and in a little over an hour, they would surely be crowned as such.

While Emma Hayes’ half-time team talk will likely remain unknown, it became apparent very quickly that she had not instructed her side to sit back and defend their four-goal lead. Just two second-half minutes had passes before the Blues were back in the box, with Reiten’s cutback slotted home by Melanie Leupolz after Kaneryd had struck the base of the post.

By the hour mark, the upcoming title lift was merely a formality for Hayes’ Chelsea. The vocal away contingent serenaded their longstanding manager for the last time, with the 41-year-old holding five fingers up in their direction as a chorus of ‘Emma, Emma, what’s the score?’ rang around the Theatre of Dreams.

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With the match already proving to be a fitting farewell for Hayes, it would end as an emotional goodbye to Fran Kirby too. The substitute raced through on goal with five minutes remaining on the matchday clock, playing a one-two with Sophie Ingle before dispatching past a dejected Earps for Chelsea’s sixth of the afternoon.

It was a bitterly disappointing day for Manchester United, who ultimately succumbed to the joint-highest home defeat of the 2023/24 WSL season – with Aston Villa also shipping six unanswered goals against Chelsea earlier in the season.

For Chelsea though, it was nothing short of a poetic end.

The lineups

MUN: Earps; Blundell, Le Tissier, Turner, Riviere; Zelem, Naalsund; García, Toone, Malard; Williams

CHE: Mušović; Carter, Björn, Bright, Charles; Cuthbert, Leupolz; Reiten, Macário, Rytting Kaneryd; Ramírez

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