By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Old Trafford
Manchester United went two points clear at the top of the Premier League after beating Chelsea in a highly eventful encounter at Old Trafford.
The scoreline barely starts to tell the story of a game that was a mixture of madcap moments, missed opportunities and high quality that ended with Sir Alex Ferguson's champions maintaining their 100% league record.
Win like basketball game - Ferguson
United were three up at half-time with goals from Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney as Chelsea contributed to their own downfall courtesy of poor defending and a dismal failure to take the chances that came their way.
Fernando Torres, lively throughout, scored his first goal of the season with a fine finish just after half-time but his improved performance will be scarred by his astonishing late miss at the Stretford End when he shot wide of an open goal after skipping around United goalkeeper David de Gea.
It spared some embarrassment for Rooney, who earlier missed a penalty in farcical circumstances when he slipped haplessly as he ran up to take his kick.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas suffered his first defeat since his arrival at Stamford Bridge - and his first league loss since his Academica side went down 3-2 at home to Benfica in Portugal in April 2010. He may take some comfort from the fact Chelsea held their own for long periods but were ultimately let down by moments of weakness at both ends.
United have been devastating when offered opportunities this season. And so it proved when poor marking from Ashley Young's free-kick left Smalling unattended to head powerfully past Petr Cech, although the visitors felt he was offside.
Chelsea were not discouraged by the early setback though and wasted two chances to equalise before the game was taken out of their reach in the closing stages of the first half.
MANCHESTER UNITED 2011-2012
West Brom 1-2 Man Utd (Rooney)
Man Utd 3-0 Spurs (Welbeck, Anderson, Rooney)
Man Utd 8-2 Arsenal (Welbeck, Young 2, Rooney 3, Nani, Park)
Bolton 0-5 Man Utd (Hernandez 2, Rooney 3)
Man Utd 3-1 Chelsea (Smalling, Nani, Rooney)
Torres scuffed an angled finish after Anderson carelessly conceded possession and another culprit was Ramires, who was guilty of an awful miss in the 25th minute. The impressive Juan Mata played in Torres, who unselfishly squared the ball for Ramires in front of an open goal, but his weak finish allowed De Gea to make a scrambling save.
Chelsea paid a huge price for Ramires' generosity as United struck twice before half-time to put themselves firmly in control.
Nani scored the second with a spectacular rising drive from the edge of the area nine minutes before the interval and Rooney, inevitably, was the man on the spot as United increased their lead in the closing seconds of the half. John Terry's clearance struck Nani and rolled invitingly into Rooney's path for the simplest of finishes.
It prompted Villas-Boas into making a change with Nicolas Anelka coming on to replace Frank Lampard - a switch that had an instant impact as the Frenchman played in Torres within a minute of the restart for the sort of finish that was his trademark at the height of his powers.
Chelsea suddenly had hope but it looked to have been snatched away when United were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute. Nani struck the bar after cutting inside and was then hauled down by Bosingwa as he chased the rebound.
Rooney exchanged smiles with England colleague Terry as he waited to run up but Chelsea's captain had the last laugh as the striker slipped as he took the kick and missed the target.
Torres was showing real signs of sharpness, meanwhile, as he brought another save from De Gea, but Rooney was also in the mood and rolled an effort against the foot of the post with Cech beaten.
Javier Hernandez's attempts to turn in the rebound were foiled by Ashley Cole's reckless late tackle - which left the England defender fortunate to receive only a yellow card from referee Phil Dowd and United puzzled that they were not awarded a second penalty.
There was no excuse for Torres, however, when he somehow failed to score his second with seven minutes left. He sidestepped De Gea with ease and composure at the Stretford End then, with an open goal at his mercy, missed the target hopelessly as the taunts for the former Liverpool striker rang around Old Trafford.
The action continued right until the final whistle as Cole cleared off the line from United substitute Dimitar Berbatov after he was set up by Rooney.
Full Time The referee signals the end of the game.
Corner taken right-footed by Nicolas Anelka, Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot. Antonio Valencia gets a block in.
Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Ashley Cole gets a block in.
Luis Nani challenges Ashley Cole unfairly and gives away a free kick. John Terry takes the direct free kick.
Patrice Evra crosses the ball, blocked by Branislav Ivanovic.
Corner taken short by Ashley Young. A cross is delivered by Patrice Evra, Petr Cech makes a comfortable save.
Ashley Young delivers the ball, Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Save made by Petr Cech.
Juan Mata delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, Jonathan Evans manages to make a clearance.
Booking Caution for Darren Fletcher.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Juan Mata by Darren Fletcher.
Shot from close in by Fernando Torres misses to the left of the target.
Luis Nani sends in a cross.
Ashley Cole delivers the ball.
Juan Mata delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing.
Booking Booking for Antonio Valencia.
Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Antonio Valencia results in a free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Antonio Valencia on Juan Mata. Ashley Cole restarts play with the free kick.
Substitution Dimitar Berbatov comes on in place of Javier Hernandez.
Substitution Mikel comes on in place of Raul Meireles.
Booking Ashley Cole receives a yellow card.
Patrice Evra delivers the ball, Wayne Rooney produces a left-footed shot from close range and strikes the post. Javier Hernandez has an effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the target.
Unfair challenge on Luis Nani by Juan Mata results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Ashley Young.
Wayne Rooney delivers the ball.
Shot from long range by Branislav Ivanovic goes wide of the left-hand post.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Phil Jones. Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.
Corner taken by Ashley Young from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Ramires.
Fernando Torres takes a shot. Save by David De Gea. Shot from deep inside the area by Fernando Torres clears the bar.
Corner taken by Juan Mata from the left by-line, Header from close in by Branislav Ivanovic misses to the right of the goal.
Short corner taken by Fernando Torres.
Outswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the left by-line played to the near post, Phil Jones makes a clearance.
Corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata from the left by-line to the near post, Luis Nani makes a clearance.
Substitution Daniel Sturridge goes off and Romelu Lukaku comes on.
The ball is crossed by Raul Meireles, clearance made by Michael Carrick.
The ball is swung over by Ashley Young, Phil Jones has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the target.
Corner taken short by Ashley Young.
Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Blocked by Branislav Ivanovic.
Patrice Evra fouled by Branislav Ivanovic, the ref awards a free kick. Strike comes in from Wayne Rooney from the free kick.
John Terry takes the free kick.
Substitution (Man Utd) makes a substitution, with Michael Carrick coming on for Oliveira Anderson.
Substitution Chris Smalling leaves the field to be replaced by Antonio Valencia.
Chris Smalling concedes a free kick for a foul on Fernando Torres.
The ball is delivered by Nicolas Anelka.
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line, clearance by Chris Smalling.
The ball is swung over by Nicolas Anelka, save by David De Gea.
The ball is sent over by Patrice Evra, Branislav Ivanovic makes a clearance.
Penalty taken by Wayne Rooney and missed.
Booking John Terry is cautioned by the ref for dissent.
Jose Bosingwa gives away a Penalty for an unfair challenge on Luis Nani.
Luis Nani takes a shot.
Ramires delivers the ball, clearance made by Phil Jones.
Juan Mata decides to take the corner short.
Juan Mata takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.
The ball is sent over by Jose Bosingwa.
The ball is swung over by Luis Nani, comfortable save by Petr Cech.
Nicolas Anelka crosses the ball, clearance by Jonathan Evans.
Patrice Evra crosses the ball, save by Petr Cech.
Free kick taken by Darren Fletcher.
Booking Ramires is booked.
Ramires concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Rooney.
Foul by Wayne Rooney on Raul Meireles, free kick awarded. Branislav Ivanovic restarts play with the free kick.
Nicolas Anelka provided the assist for the goal.
45:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Fernando Torres - Man Utd 3 - 1 Chelsea Fernando Torres scores a goal from inside the six-yard box high into the middle of the goal. Man Utd 3-1 Chelsea.
The second half kicks off.
Substitution Frank Lampard goes off and Nicolas Anelka comes on.
45:00 +2:06 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.
Unfair challenge on Wayne Rooney by Frank Lampard results in a free kick. Oliveira Anderson restarts play with the free kick.
Luis Nani provided the assist for the goal.
44:38 Goal scored
Goal! - Wayne Rooney - Man Utd 3 - 0 Chelsea Wayne Rooney grabs a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea.
Darren Fletcher fouled by Ramires, the ref awards a free kick. Jonathan Evans restarts play with the free kick.
Effort on goal by Ramires from just inside the area clears the bar.
Effort from long distance by Ashley Cole goes wide right of the target.
The ball is crossed by Ashley Young, comfortable save by Petr Cech.
Jonathan Evans provided the assist for the goal.
36:28 Goal scored
Goal! - Luis Nani - Man Utd 2 - 0 Chelsea Luis Nani fires in a goal from just outside the penalty box to the top left corner of the goal. Man Utd 2-0 Chelsea.
The ball is crossed by Ashley Young, blocked by Jose Bosingwa.
Shot from just outside the box by Wayne Rooney misses to the right of the target.
Shot from 12 yards by Daniel Sturridge. David De Gea makes a comfortable save.
A cross is delivered by Daniel Sturridge, Effort from the edge of the penalty area by Fernando Torres goes wide of the left-hand post.
Foul by Chris Smalling on Ashley Cole, free kick awarded. Juan Mata takes the free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Jose Bosingwa on Ashley Young. David De Gea restarts play with the free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Patrice Evra on Daniel Sturridge. Free kick taken by Raul Meireles.
The official flags Javier Hernandez offside. Petr Cech restarts play with the free kick.
Inswinging corner taken by Juan Mata from the right by-line, save by David De Gea.
The ball is crossed by Fernando Torres, Ramires takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save made by David De Gea.
A cross is delivered by Luis Nani, clearance made by Raul Meireles.
A cross is delivered by Luis Nani, save by Petr Cech.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Fernando Torres on Phil Jones. David De Gea takes the free kick.
Frank Lampard has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.
Shot from just outside the area by Daniel Sturridge misses to the right of the target.
The ball is crossed by Jose Bosingwa, Chris Smalling manages to make a clearance.
Unfair challenge on Daniel Sturridge by Wayne Rooney results in a free kick. Jose Bosingwa restarts play with the free kick.
Centre by Luis Nani.
Unfair challenge on Luis Nani by Ashley Cole results in a free kick. Wayne Rooney takes the direct free kick.
Ashley Young takes the inswinging corner, save made by Petr Cech.
Patrice Evra concedes a free kick for a foul on Daniel Sturridge. Jose Bosingwa takes the free kick.
A cross is delivered by Patrice Evra, blocked by Raul Meireles.
Corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata from the left by-line, Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot. Save by David De Gea.
Frank Lampard produces a drilled right-footed shot from 20 yards. Jonathan Evans gets a block in.
The ball is delivered by Luis Nani, John Terry gets a block in.
Fernando Torres produces a drilled right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.
Jose Bosingwa crosses the ball.
Juan Mata crosses the ball, David De Gea makes a save.
Corner taken short by Juan Mata.
Chris Smalling gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Juan Mata. Ashley Cole restarts play with the free kick.
Assist on the goal came from Ashley Young.
7:06 Goal scored
Goal! - Chris Smalling - Man Utd 1 - 0 Chelsea Chris Smalling finds the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Man Utd 1-0 Chelsea.
Foul by Jose Bosingwa on Ashley Young, free kick awarded. Ashley Young sends in a cross,
Daniel Sturridge has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the target.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Smalling by Ashley Cole. Free kick taken by Phil Jones.
Foul by Branislav Ivanovic on Javier Hernandez, free kick awarded. Oliveira Anderson takes the free kick.
Centre by Ashley Cole, Shot by Ramires. Save by David De Gea.
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