A wonderful strike from Cristiano Ronaldo salvaged a 1-1 draw for Manchester United against a dominant Chelsea at Old Trafford – but the result means United can only now equal their worst-ever points total in the Premier League era.
That decline was plain to see during a first half which featured protests against the Glazers’ ownership and a United team badly exposed on their own patch by visitors who should have made more of the chances afforded to them.
Kai Havertz wasted three good first-half openings but flicked on a cross from the excellent Reece James for Marcos Alonso to volley in a deserved opener on the hour mark.
Two minutes later, though, Ronaldo responded. A wonderful lofted pass from Nemanja Matic played in the forward, who produced a fine touch and hit to smash in his first goal against Chelsea. He’s now scored eight of United’s last nine Premier League goals – a strong rebuke to his critics.
The goal ignited the home fans and suddenly there was fight from the players in red – but the visitors continued to pile forwards and only the woodwork denied James what would have been a fine winner late on.
Chelsea’s club-record winning streak away from home ends at eight but they only need seven points from their remaining five games to seal a top-four spot.
Those Champions League places are a long way off for United, though, who trail Arsenal by five points having played two games more – and United will now be unable to surpass the meagre 64 points they achieved in 2013/14.
There had been a strangely subdued atmosphere prior to kick-off and when the game got underway there were still swathes of empty seats in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, with United supporters once again protesting against the Glazers’ ownership.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Dalot (5), Lindelof (6), Varane (6), Telles (5), Matic (7), McTominay (6), Elanga (6), Fernandes (6), Rashford (5), Ronaldo (8).
Subs: Jones (6), Mata (6), Garnacho (N/A)
Chelsea: Mendy (6), Azpilicueta (6), Silva (6), Rudiger (6), James (8), Jorginho (6), Kante (7), Alonso (7), Mount (7), Werner (6), Havertz (5).
Subs: Lukaku (6), Pulisic (6), Loftus-Cheek (N/A)
Man of the match: Reece James
Those fans eventually arrived in the 17th minute – representing the number of years the Americans have been in control – by which point they’d missed a James rocket and tamer Timo Werner effort test David de Gea during Chelsea’s strong start, and Ronaldo shin a scissor kick well off target in reply.
- Manchester United made one change from the defeat at Arsenal, with Marcus Rashford replacing the ill Jadon Sancho. Harry Maguire, Fred, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw were among their high-profile absentees.
- Chelsea made two changes to their side which beat West Ham, with Antonio Rudiger and Reece James returning to the XI and Trevoh Calobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek dropping to the bench.
Chelsea continued to put on the pressure, with Havertz shooting into the side-netting from a tight angle before passing up two great chances when he shot at De Gea from N’Golo Kante’s through ball and then headed meekly at the goalkeeper from a fantastic James cross. Blues boss Tuchel couldn’t hide his frustration on the touchline.
The Chelsea forward let United off again early in the second half, failing to roll in Kante from a lightning counter-attack which left the home side badly exposed, before Mason Mount’s hard low cross flew just beyond the reach of Werner.
The visitors finally got their deserved opener on the hour, with United inviting James to cross from the right and Havertz diverting the ball on for Alonso to hammer home. But that advantage was almost instantly scrubbed out.
From nowhere Ronaldo hauled his side level, exquisitely controlling a super lobbed pass from Matic before lashing past Edouard Mendy.
The goal sparked the home fans and players into life – but still Chelsea kept on coming and James smacked the post from Mount’s clever backheel.
United did finish on the front foot and, for the second time this season they’ve taken a point off a highly-fancied Chelsea side. But the bigger picture underlined the work they have to do to rebuild in the summer.
Tuchel: We deserved to win but weren’t clinical enough
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel to Sky Sports: “It should have been more. There’s only one team who deserves to win and that’s us but we didn’t take it. It’s our responsibility to win a game like this when we dominate in all areas of the match. We were not clinical enough, lacked a bit of determination in the box to win this game.
“We worked so hard to get the lead and created so many chances and suddenly the opponent gets one free shot and scores.
“We found the space on the right and took advantage. I think Reece played a very good match, Mason a little unlucky in his decisions and could have been more precise in the first half to score and assist. But we were very good in our patterns.”
Rangnick: We were fortunate but better in second half
Man Utd boss Ralf Rangnick: “We were fortunate in the first half, needed some great saves from David and last ditch tackles. In the second half we we better, showed a good reaction to that goal with an amazing assist by Nemanja and great finish by Ronaldo. In the last 20 minutes it was an open game. They could have scored when James hit the post but we also had our moments.
“Overall we had to admit we were fortunate to get that point but the reaction in the second half was good.”
Opta stats – Chelsea’s winless run against Man Utd continues
- Chelsea are winless in nine Premier League games against Manchester United (D6 L3) – only against Arsenal (19 between 1995 and 2005) and Blackburn Rovers (12 between 1992 and 1998) have they had a longer run without a win in the competition.
- Man Utd’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first ever Premier League goal against Chelsea in what was his 12th appearance against the Blues in the competition. There were 119 seconds between Chelsea’s opener and Ronaldo’s equaliser.
- Marcos Alonso has scored his second Premier League goal at Old Trafford for Chelsea, with goals both being scored on April 28th (also in 2019).
- Man Utd’s David de Gea has made 121 saves in the Premier League this season, only in 2018-19 (122) has the Spaniard made more stops in a single campaign in the competition.
Manchester United host Brentford on Monday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm; kick-off 8pm. Chelsea are away at Everton on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm; kick-off 2pm.