Chelsea – Manchester United: The season series between Chelsea and Manchester United has ended without a goal following a tight yet sloppy match at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
It was, to be fair, quite a slog.
[ MORE: Player ratings from Stamford Bridge ]
Manchester United’s record against “Big Six” rivals sits at 0W-5D-2L on the season, but the Red Devils are 14W-3D-2L versus the rest of the Premier League and sit second with a dozen matches to play.
Chelsea isn’t much better in those fixtures — 1W-2D-4L — after failing to make up ground on United and remaining fifth on 44 points, six back of their Sunday visitors.
The Blues did post that lone win over Tottenham and under Thomas Tuchel, who is yet to lose as Chelsea manager.
Three things we learned from Chelsea – Manchester United
1. Safe Solskjaer gets his minimum expected result: When the epitaph is placed on Manchester United’s 2020-21 Premier League season, one seemingly destined for the top four, their performance against traditional powers won’t be why they finished above 16 teams but why they failed to challenge anyone above them (even if that’s just Man City).
Perhaps United was scared by their 10-man embarrassment at home to Spurs to start the season’s run versus the “Big Six,” but the Bruno Fernandes second-minute penalty that kicked off that game has seen exactly zero United goals scored in the ensuing 628 minutes against Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, and Liverpool.
Now perhaps that’s much different if Hudson-Odoi’s apparent first-half handball is ruled a penalty, but it wasn’t (Shoulder shrug emoji).
To emphasize the situation, we’ll include the expected goal scorelines for those games after the links.
Oct. 4 – Man Utd 1-6 Spurs (0.87-3.30)
Oct. 24 – Man Utd 0-0 Chelsea (0.65-0.22)
Nov. 1 – Man Utd 0-1 Arsenal (0.39-1.00)
Dec. 12 – Man Utd 0-0 Man City (0.59-1.28)
Jan. 17 – Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United (1.20-1.19)
Jan. 30 – Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United (0.75-1.51)
Sunday – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United (TBD-TBD)
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2. Chelsea’s own third is solid: Edouard Mendy is consistently in the right spot to make saves look easy and Antonio Rudiger looks like a reborn player under Thomas Tuchel. Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante were terrific in the heart of the midfield, breaking up a number of attacks including one in stoppage time.
3. Chelsea’s attack, however… Hakim Ziyech may not be fit but he did enough to earn another start, his five key passes more than Mason Mount, Olivier Giroud, Kovacic, Kante, and Ben Chilwell combined. Injured Callum Hudson-Odoi had two in his 45 minutes, for what it’s worth, but the introduction of Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner felt a bit late — exceptionally so in the case of the big German’s 78th-minute entry.
Man of the Match: N’Golo Kante
Four interceptions and seven tackles, forcing Bruno Fernandes to play a different way and limited the Player of the Year candidate’s danger.
Chelsea – Manchester United recap
The first half was end-to-end stuff, though the movement flattered the idea of much legitimate danger.
Eduoard Mendy had to react well to slap away an early free kick, and Callum Hudson-Odoi dodged a seeming penalty for handball in what must have been viewed as inconclusive upon video evidence (though the video evidence did seem awfully conclusive on television).
Hudson-Odoi took a big switch from Antonio Rudiger and swept it right into the mix, though it was an inch or two too far for Giroud’s diving header attempt.
There were nine shots in the first half, five for Chelsea, but just one on target for each team.
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Reece James replaced an injured Callum Hudson-Odoi at halftime.
David De Gea made a point-blank save on Hakim Ziyech and James saw his bid at the rebound blocked by a sliding Luke Shaw. Ben Chilwell sent the cross into the mix off a fine drive up the left side.
Bruno Fernandes led a rush down the pitch but failed to connect with Marcus Rashford, who could’ve done better to trap it. Mason Greenwood soon missed wide with a 19-yard shot.
Mendy was in position to stop a drilled shot moments later as United enjoyed its best spell of the game.
Christian Pulisic entered the game in the 65th minute for Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea forced a fairly comfortable save out of De Gea through Kovacic’s hard shot with 16 minutes to play.
Pulisic turned away from Harry Maguire and drew a yellow card from the English back, giving the Blues a free kick from the right.