What Mauricio Pochettino told Cole Palmer before winning Chelsea goal to sink Man United hearts

It was fitting that on the sixth anniversary of the death of one of Chelsea’s most legendary players, Ray Wilkins, who also played for Manchester United, that two of his former clubs were able to put on a show that will go down as an all-time Premier League classic.

It felt huge before the match. It always does when a club like Man United come to town. There are more police outside Stamford Bridge. There is, generally, more of a buzz around the place.

However, there was also some trepidation – certainly from the Chelsea supporters. Saturday afternoon saw Mauricio Pochettino essentially call out his players at the end of the game for not showing the required mental strength to play for the football club.

The Blues were unable to record all three points against Burnley, who were playing with a man less for the entirety of the second-half in SW6. In the days leading up to the match, Pochettino sent a rather blunt, but clear, message to his young squad: they need to be more aggressive.

In terms of aggression, it could not have started more perfectly for Chelsea.

Conor Gallagher, often one of the most aggressive players on any football pitch, struck past Andre Onana with a low drive to put the hosts a goal to the good with just four minutes on the clock.

And Chelsea were not done. Far from it. Marc Cucurella’s bursting run on the left-hand side saw Antony make a clumsy challenge on the Spaniard and referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the penalty spot. There was no question about who was going to take the kick.

Cole Palmer stood up and placed a much more orthodox spot-kick into the bottom corner after performing a Panenka in the draw with Burnley at the weekend. “City reject” were the chants not too long before from the United supporters in the Shed End when the former Manchester City attacker took a corner kick in front of them.

Less than 20 minutes in and Chelsea were in dreamland. A start to a game, a massive game in that, which their supporters were certainly not expecting. But what happened next, well that may have been more obvious to the Blues’ fan base.

The capitulation happened. Moises Caicedo gave away the ball poorly to Alejandro Garnacho, who held his nerve in front of the Matthew Harding Stand to reduce the deficit. Bruno Fernandes crept in at the back-post to equalise not too long after and there was a real sense of ‘here we go again’ from the home supporters on a soaking wet night in west London.

When Garnacho headed in from a world-class Antony pass in the second-half, the atmosphere threatened to turn toxic. Mason Mount, the pantomime villain at Stamford Bridge, was brought on late into the game to spice the atmosphere up even more.

Chelsea were having plenty of the ball as they pushed for the equaliser late on but were not creating too much in the way of clear-cut opportunities. Noni Madueke, though, took the weight of the match onto his shoulders and drove into the box, forcing the clumsiest of challenges from Diogo Dalot.

Gillett, who had already given one penalty in the first-half to the Blues, took his time – adding to the drama – while communicating with his fellow officials through his ear-piece and eventually pointed to the spot. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Palmer would not put the ball past Onana.

An emphatic spot-kick once again from the 21-year-old, whose celebration was typical of his mentality. Palmer picked the ball up when he equalised in the 100th minute. He wanted more. As did Pochettino.

“When we scored [the third goal], he [Pochettino] said ‘two minutes, come on’,” Palmer said post-match. “He’s always trying to drive us on. We went for it and thankfully we scored.”

Pochettino said similar in his post-match press conference: “In the end, I was keeping believing. We were talking to our players, ‘there’s still two minutes’. We believed we could score the winning goal.”

Then what followed was pure pandemonium. Indescribable mayhem. Unadulterated havoc. Chaotic scenes that will live long in the memories of every single person inside Stamford Bridge that evening – and for all of those who watched on from elsewhere.

Palmer was one of two men alert from a corner situation. The other was Enzo Fernandez, the corner-taker. Enzo played the ball short to Palmer, who for all of his technical brilliance, just smacked the ball as hard as he possibly could in the direction of Onana’s goal.

Unfortunately from a United point of view, it hit Scott McTominay and the deflection took it away from Onana. Would it have gone in anyway? Maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter.

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