Manchester United and Chelsea battled to a 0-0 draw on Monday with Louis Van Gaal‘s doing much of the pressing but failing to find the back of the net.
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That theme has been the story of United’s season so far as Chelsea’s interim boss Guus Hiddink will have been pleased to leave with a point.
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Here’s three things we learned from Old Trafford.
UNITED’S URGENCY RETURNS
Even though United’s winless run continues — it now stretches to eight games which is their worst run since the 1989-90 campaign — the Red Devils impressed and looked more dynamic in attack. United hit the woodwork twice in the first half through Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, with the latter causing Chelsea plenty of problems from the left flank. Wayne Rooney looked back to his best and Ander Herrera forced a magnificent save from Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, plus a few handball decisions in the box could have handed gone United’s way on another day and handed them a penalty kick in the second half.
United had 67 percent of the possession and attempted 12 shots but just two were on target. Therein lies the issue. United have drawn 0-0 in six of their last 14 games with the pressure still on Van Gaal. It was better from the Red Devils, there’s no doubt about that, but they are in sixth place halfway through the season and are now five points off the top four.
With United scarves being sold with Jose Mourinho’s name and face on them outside Old Trafford it remains to be seen if the Dutch coach survives the next few days as one promising attacking display still led to a mixture of boos and applause as LVG enter the tunnel at the end of the game. Was that for the final time? Speaking after the game, he was defiant he would not resign.
“Will I resign? On the contrary. When the players can give such a performance with a lot of pressure, there is not any reason to resign for me. Maybe the media wants me to but I shall not resign. It’s not a question of staying, it’s a question of fulfilling my contract.”
FALSE NINE FALTERS
Chelsea chose to line up in a false nine formation as they were without the suspended Diego Costa. Eden Hazard impressed on his full return from injury, but Willian and Oscar never really got into the game as the three interchanged in the advanced positions. The fact that interim boss Hiddink chose to select midfielders ahead of Loic Remy suggests that the Frenchman’s days in west London could be numbered, with rumors persisting that Jamie Vardy and others will be heading to the Bridge in January to give the Blues an offensive boost.
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Hiddink set his side up to grab a point at United and even if they struggled to get to grips with the game early on, they had chances with John Terry and Pedro denied by the brilliant David De Gea and Nemanja Matic getting it all wrong when clean through. It wasn’t impressive from the Blues but they ground out a draw and are unbeaten in three games since Mourinho was fired on Dec. 17. That’s the first time they’ve gone three games unbeaten this season but they only remain three points off the relegation zone.
GOALKEEPERS PUT ON A CLINIC
Two of the top three goalkeepers in the world were on show on Monday and it’s been easy to forget just how good Courtois and De Gea are.
The former has missed most of the season after being injured against Swansea City on the opening weekend but the Belgian international produced a moment of brilliance to deny Herrera from close range at a pivotal moment in the second half. De Gea — who sat out United’s opening four games following a summer contract dispute amid interest from Real Madrid — was at it at the other end as the Spaniard produced magnificent reflexes to tip Terry’s header over early on and at the start of the second half he saved well from Pedro and then from Cesar Azpilicueta’s follow-up. On their day these two push Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer all the way as the young, lanky goalkeepers are a joy to watch in this form and were the main reason this game ended without a goal.