Manchester United booked their Champions League place with a game to spare thanks to a comfortable win over a dismal Chelsea side at Old Trafford.
Casemiro headed the hosts in front, with Anthony Martial sweeping in Jadon Sancho’s pass from close range to double their advantage.
Bruno Fernandes added United’s third from the penalty spot after being fouled by Wesley Fofana.
And another Fofana error saw Marcus Rashford score a fourth before Joao Felix’s late consolation for the Blues, who suffered their eighth defeat in 10 games under Frank Lampard and their 16th overall in a desperate campaign.
The result meant United consigned old rivals Liverpool to Europa League football next season.
It was not all good news for the home side though as Brazilian winger Antony was taken off on a stretcher in tears after suffering a lower leg injury in an innocuous challenge with Trevoh Chalobah – with the FA Cup final against Manchester City less than two weeks away.
Manager Erik ten Hag said: “I can tell you that it’s serious but we have to wait minimum 24 hours and then we know probably more about the status of his injury.”
For Chelsea, their sorry season – their worst in almost two decades – cannot come to an end quickly enough, although their fans have at least retained their sense of humour as they sang “we’ve scored a goal” as they celebrated Felix’s effort.
Ten Hag made it clear in his programme notes that he wanted the Champions League place made secure immediately rather than let the situation drag on to create a tense finale against Fulham at the weekend.
It never looked likely they would fail to get the point they needed once Casemiro had been allowed to meet Christian Eriksen’s free-kick unchallenged in a crowded penalty area to give the hosts a sixth-minute lead.
The Brazilian midfielder was the key component of a glorious second for the hosts, when he played a chipped, no-look pass beyond the Chelsea defence that allowed Sancho to present Martial with a tap-in.
Fernandes took the spot-kick himself after he had been fouled in the box 17 minutes from time, having also hit the bar and had another penalty claim turned down.
Nothing encapsulated the hapless nature of Chelsea’s season more than United’s fourth as somehow, in taking their own goal kick, the visitors presented the ball to Fernandes, who squared for Rashford to finish at the second attempt after Kepa Arrizabalaga had kept out his initial effort.
At that point, United were heading for their biggest win of the season and Chelsea their worst defeat.
Felix’s effort changed that but the hosts were still the better team.
With the EFL Cup already won this has arguably been a successful season at Old Trafford no matter what the outcome of the FA Cup final.
However, given the knowledge that defeat to Manchester City at Wembley would leave their rivals two-thirds of the way towards winning a Treble only United have previously achieved, there is still a lot of work ahead of Ten Hag’s side before the end of the season.
Lampard and Chelsea’s misery continues
In the moments between Martial’s goal and the half-time whistle, the TV cameras panned to Lampard, who sat on the bench, in silence, with his arms crossed.
What must have seemed like a free hit when he was asked to take over from Graham Potter until the end of the season at the beginning of last month has instead cast a major question mark over his future job prospects.
Eight defeats from 10 games, with little sign of even the semblance of a solution to the conundrum about how to mould a team out of the, theoretically, talented squad at his disposal.
At Old Trafford, Lampard named Chelsea’s youngest-ever Premier League line-up.
He was rewarded with an excellent performance from 18-year-old full-back Lewis Hall, who had been wanted for England Under-20 World Cup duty in Argentina.
Hall delivered two superb crosses into the United box. Mykhaylo Mudryk failed to connect with the first. Kai Havertz headed the second wide from a central position when completely unmarked. In the second-half, Hall decided to go on his own, only for David de Gea to beat away his thunderous drive.
A precise Enzo Fernandez through ball set up Conor Gallagher but the England man was equally profligate as he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Chelsea are heading for their worst league finish since 1994 and the end of the campaign, and the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino, cannot come quickly enough.
If there is any crumb of comfort for the Chelsea fans who continued to support their team despite their present state, it comes from the knowledge that 12 months ago United were similarly shambolic, their own interim manager Ralf Rangnick having failed to restore the club’s fortunes following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. (BBC)