After Wayne Rooney fired United into a first-half lead, David Luiz volleyed in an equaliser before Martin Atkinson ruled that Chris Smalling fouled substitute Yuri Zhirkov inside the box. Frank Lampard rifled the 80th-minute spot-kick past Edwin van der Sar to take his team into the top four and give United only their second defeat of the league campaign.
United skipper Nemanja Vidic was sent off deep into injury time for his second yellow card, meaning he will miss Sunday’s trip to Liverpool. With Rio Ferdinand and Evans out injured, United suddenly have an injury crisis in the heart of its defence.
This was a pulsating game from the opening whistle that was end to end and had enough talking points to keep even the most neutral fan on the edge of their seat.
Man United fans will complain that scorer David Luiz should have been sent-off in the second half for multiple off-the-ball tackles that went unpunished by Atkinson. Luiz mugged Hernandez at least twice and Rooney once, and it is amazing that he was not sent off.
After this performance Chelsea fans will wonder where the Chelsea team has been all season? The Champions played with an energy and hunger that has been missing from their game recently, and Luiz added a level of steel to the Chelsea back-four that has been missing.
So United (60 points) are now 4 points ahead of Arsenal (56 points) who have played a game less. The title race is still between those two.
But the battle for the last two Champions League places is really tight with Man City (50 points), Chelsea (48 points) and Spurs (47 points) all fighting for those last two places. They all have to play each other in the run-in to the end of the season and their will be tens of millions of pounds riding on the outcome of those games.