Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0: Conte holds hands up as Blues falter

Man United 2 Chelsea 0

By Andy Hampson

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte accepted Tottenham Hotspur were back in the title race after suffering a potentially damaging loss at the hands of his predecessor Jose Mourinho.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera condemned the Premier League leaders to a 2-0 defeat against Mourinho's Manchester United and left them just four points ahead of Spurs with six games to play.

Chelsea led the table by 10 points at the start of April and Conte, whose side were also beaten by Crystal Palace a fortnight ago, accepted the blame for the latest slip-up.

The Italian said: "I think that the impact was very tough today, but when you play at Old Trafford it is normal to have this type of impact against a really strong team as United.

"We didn't play a good game and United deserved to win. They showed more desire, more ambition, more motivation to win.

"It is very simple, but in this case the fault is of the coach. It means the coach wasn't able to transfer the right concentration, desire, ambition to win this type of game.

"Against Crystal Palace we didn't deserve to lose, but today we deserved to lose the game.

"We have to think that there are six finals from now until the end. The league is open and we have a 50 per cent probability to win the league.

"We will be good to finish on top of the table and it means we deserve this. Otherwise we deserve another thing."

Conte insisted the pressure would not get to him.

He said: "The pressure is normal. I prefer to play for the title instead of don't fight for the title and stay calm. We are lucky to have the pressure.

"Last season Chelsea had no pressure - 10th place and you play calm, and you are happy.

"We must have great enthusiasm to play these last six games, with patience and a great will to fight.

"If we are able to win I think we must be proud for this, otherwise we must clap another team."

United's performance was one of their best since Mourinho took charge last summer and the Portuguese praised his players' attitude.

He said: "I think we have had very good performances - Arsenal here, Tottenham here, when we played really well.

"I think we played really well (against Chelsea), a very solid performance. We gave them double problems. We gave them problems when they had the ball because we controlled very well and we gave them problems when we recovered the ball because we were really sharp and fast and aggressive in our transitions.

"So, I am very happy with the performance. Very happy."

The United boss was also thrilled with a "fantastic" performance from 19-year-old Rashford.

"He played fantastically well, I think he did also a very good game at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup," he added.

"Today he scored and it was at the beginning of the match which gave the team confidence and stability. The kid played fantastically well, but everybody fought and did what they had to do."

Mourinho set his team up in a similar way when United fell to a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup last month after being reduced to 10 men following Herrera's red card.

Referencing that quarter-final clash, Mourinho said: "That game was totally controlled when we played with 11 players, and only the decision that made us play with 10 players gave Chelsea a chance to be dominant.

"We knew that playing this way would be very difficult for them."

Man Utd: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Darmian, Fellaini, Herrera, Young (Fosu-Mensah, 90 mins), Pogba, Lingard (Carrick, 60 mins), Rashford (Ibrahimovic, 82 mins). Unused subs: Romero, Blind, Shaw, Mkhitaryan.

Chelsea: Begovic, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill,Moses (Fabregas, 54 mins), Kante, Matic (Willian, 66 mins), Zouma (Loftus-Cheek, 83 mins), Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. Unused subs: Eduardo, Ake, Terry, Batshuayi.

Referee: Robert Madley (England)

Man of the match: Ander Herrera

Match rating: 7/10

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