Manchester United battled to a 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea in the Premier League fixture on Sunday. A slow but evenly contested game was a battle of defenses as both teams came out with a point apiece. After securing qualification to the Europa R16 in midweek, the Manchester United players looked slightly tired but managed to stay afloat in the game.
Manchester United Starting XI vs. Chelsea
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer looked to continue his unbeaten record against Chelsea with a tried and tested lineup. David de Gea returned to his goalkeeping post. Maguire and Lindelof were the center backs along with Shaw and Wan-Bissaka as the wing-backs. Fred and McTominay were the deep-lying midfielders behind Bruno Fernades. The attacking trio consisted of James, Greenwood, and Rashford. The bench included Martial, van de Beek, Bailly, Amad, and Tuanzebe among others.
Manchester United started the game on the backfoot as Chelsea controlled the game well. In the early moments, Fred and McTominay had to lie deep and cut out any passes from Chelsea’s front men. Rudiger went on a dangerous run foraying into the United box, but his shot was saved. United sat back and dealt with Chelsea’s high-possession game, looking for opportunities to counter. The visitors had a good chance off a free-kick in the 11th minute when Rashford fired a strong and dipped shot towards goal. In the rebound, Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi clearly handled the ball and despite a VAR check, the referee denied the penalty shout. Shocking officiating there as the handball was as clear as day, and Luke Shaw’s post-match comments about the referee underline it.
Chelsea looked a bit stronger in the first half as they dominated possession and found acres of space on the wings. David de Gea made an error in the 31st minute when he gifted Chelsea the ball, but luckily United escaped. Chelsea had another chance off a cross but the ball dangerously flashed across the face of goal to safety. United fought to carve an opportunity in the dying minutes of the half but were unable to break open the Chelsea defense. At half-time, Chelsea looked stronger but United were not far behind.
Chelsea started the second half off really well as they carved out an early chance. David de Gea redeemed himself with a great palmed save off a strike from Ziyech. United took their time to grow back into the game but around the hour-mark, the tide turned in their favor. Mason Greenwood’s rocket-Esque shot was agonizingly high and wide as the young player searched hard for the breakthrough. Scott McTominay had a great effort from distance saved by Mendy as United found their passing boots.
Moments later, Rashford had a shot on goal caught by Mendy. In the resulting counterattack, Mason Mount had a shot on target blocked by McTominay. The Scotsman was very impressive with his high work-rate today. Fred too found himself in space at the edge of the box and attempted a wonderful curler that was just shy of the post. His effort prompted a wide smile and a thumbs up from Ole who has witnessed the worst of Fred’s shots previously. The final quarter of the game promised to be a gripping spell but did not deliver very well. Dan James tried to initiate some attacks but was often brought down by a more physical Chelsea side.
United also had to attend to their defensive duties, and Lindelof did just that to deny Werner an easy chance. Ole also brought on Anthony Martial in place of Greenwood in the 79th minute hoping to find a winner. Fans were hoping that Martial’s famed frown with his gloves would power him to slice open Chelsea and win the game for United. In the 89th minute, the visitors had a fantastic opportunity off a counter-attack as McTominay sprinted into the final third. He had James, Rashford, and Martial in the box but McTominay’s final pass was lacking quality. The added 3 minutes of injury-time flew by as both sides settled for a point.
Today’s draw was a bit lackluster and slow, but Luke Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, and Fred gave us some much-needed optimism. While the attack struggled to find their feet, the holding midfielders and defense did an admirable job of keeping Chelsea out. Although de Gea made an error early in the game, he redeemed himself with some good saves to keep United in the game. The team certainly missed the likes of Pogba and Cavani today as they are both more than capable of winning the game with their own talent. United also missed Cavani as an attacking outlet who can hold the ball up and play physically. The officiating in the game was shocking as United were denied a clear penalty, but their dependence on set-pieces is also a weakness.
Although Shaw had a good game defensively, his set-piece delivery was sub-par. His corners were easily headed out as he often failed to clear the near post. United were also guilty of trying to play out of the back too much even when they were under pressure from Chelsea. Thankfully we did not succumb to the pressure but we should know better than to do that. Bruno had a rough outing today as the coordination seemed off. United will perhaps gladly take a point today as they hold second place. Leicester City lost to mid-table Arsenal giving United a chance to go ahead. Next up, United travel across London to play Crystal Palace before squaring off in the Manchester Derby next weekend.