Minutes later, Scott McTominay mistimed a lunge on Kovacic, picking up a yellow card after arriving on the scene a fraction after the Croatian had moved the ball on.Approaching the quarter-of-an hour mark, Daniel James’s low corner found the feet of McTominay with great accuracy, but unfortunately the Scotland international’s curling effort – the first shot of the match – didn’t quite turn enough and finished up just wide of Chelsea stopper Willy Caballero’s left-hand post.
Next it was James’s turn to unleash a shot from inside the box after Kurt Zouma’s poor attempt to clear an Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross, but the Wales winger never quite had it under control and his effort flew wide.
Michy Batshuayi was shown a yellow card for a challenge on McTominay, the Blues forward clattering into the midfielder’s shins.
As with Lingard’s early run, the Chelsea defence found themselves again struggling with United’s attacking pace as James latched onto McTominay’s aerial interception in midfield.
James had the freedom to burst into the area, but before he could take it on further he was sent to the floor by a clumsy Marcos Alonso challenge – leaving referee Paul Tierney in no doubts about pointing to the spot.
Rashford immediately took the responsibility of taking the penalty and with a cool head, he put to bed any demons that may have been lingering from his missed spot-kick in Sunday’s victory over Norwich. His low shot nestled into the bottom left corner after he sent Caballero the wrong way.
Looking for a leveller heading into the break, Chelsea found no success in the wide areas as 20-year-old Reece James’s cross, directed towards Christian Pulisic, was met with a strong Wan-Bissaka clearance.
Pulisic, who appeared to be the Blues’ focal point in the first half, seemed to be through on goal after being played in five minutes before half-time, but he was rightly pulled back by the referee.
Early in the second period, a Billy Gilmour break looked promising for the home side, but his attempt to slide the ball to Callum Hudson-Odoi was intercepted well by Brandon Williams and when the ball found its way back to Gilmour, his shot was blocked by Marcos Rojo.
Hudson-Odi lifted a presentable chance over Sergio Romero’s goal, but Frank Lampard’s men eventually made their pressure pay and struck level through Batshuayi right after the hour mark with their only shot on target to that point. The Belgium international latched onto a Caballero clearance just inside the Reds’ half, carried the ball to the edge of the box before finishing his run by stroking an effort out of Romero’s reach and into the bottom-right corner.
In an attempt to change the tide, Solskjaer made a double change on 65 minutes – bringing on both Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira in place of Victor Lindelof and Jessie Lingard. Martial might have made an instant impact had James’s through ball not been cut out by Zouma, who bundled the ball behind for a corner.
It was Rashford who would restore the Reds’ lead with a stunning free-kick from forty yards out. Struck from a central position, the ball looked as if it moved twice in the air, leaving Chelsea’s keeper Caballero helpless.
Despite bringing on their top scorer Tammy Abraham late on, Chelsea couldn’t find another leveller and Zouma’s poor effort in the closing stages which flew into the crowd summed up the hosts’ frustrations.