Manchester United lost further ground on Premier League leaders Manchester City after they played out a drab goalless deadlock with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s side remain second but are now 12 points adrift of City while the result left Chelsea outside the top four a point behind West Ham United.
Manchester United – who have lost only one of their last 20 league games – thought they were about to be offered the chance to make a breakthrough in the first half, but a penalty appeal for handball against Callum Hudson-Odoi was dismissed by referee Stuart Attwell after he was instructed to consult a pitchside monitor by the video assistant referee.
Chelsea, who remain unbeaten under new manager Thomas Tuchel, had chances but United keeper David de Gea made a fine second-half save from Hakim Ziyech while opposite number Edouard Mendy saved well from Scott McTominay and Fred was narrowly off target with a long-range effort. Mendy also punched away a late effort from Bruno Fernandes.
In the end, however, this was another game to add to the list of meetings between the so-called top six that ended in stalemate.
Chelsea tough to beat under Tuchel
Chelsea will feel a sense of disappointment at not getting the victory that would have moved them into the top four, but this draw means it is now nine matches without defeat for manager Tuchel since he succeeded sacked Frank Lampard in January.
Tuchel has made Chelsea resilient and tough to beat but they lacked a cutting edge here and moments of discomfort were rare for Manchester United’s defence and they can have no complaints because they did not deserve victory.
It has still been a promising start for Tuchel. He has toughened up Chelsea and with the attacking talent at his disposal they are in a good position to make a serious bid to move into the top four, while they still have high ambitions in the Champions League and FA Cup.
Tuchel is slowly but surely making his mark and Chelsea can feel in upbeat mood about the weeks ahead.
Manchester United fall short
Manchester United’s title aspirations flickered briefly when then went top after a draw at Liverpool in January – but all logic suggests they have been snuffed out now with the Premier League crown heading back to Manchester City.
United’s statistics are impressive, they are now unbeaten in 20 league matches away from Old Trafford, a sequence that includes 13 wins, but they have never truly showed the belief and ruthless edge of potential champions.
And here, while they certainly deserved their point, United again failed to provide the final flourish that could have turned one into three.
Solskjaer’s side are certainly on an upward curve but this uninspiring encounter was further proof that any title talk was little more than a pipe dream and a serious gulf in quality still exists between Manchester United and Manchester City.
The two meet in the Manchester derby at Etihad Stadium next Sunday – and with the gap between the teams now 12 points City may just view it as the opportunity to kill off any lingering questions about the destiny of the Premier League this season.
United’s top six woes – the stats
- This fixture has finished goalless in both matches in a league campaign for just the second time, the other occasion coming in 1921-22.
- Manchester United are now unbeaten in 20 away league matches (W13, D7), a run that started in this exact fixture last season. It is the joint-fifth-longest run without an away defeat in top-flight history, the only longer runs coming from Arsenal (27 and 23), Liverpool (21) and Nottingham Forest (21).
- Chelsea have drawn 0-0 against an opponent home and away in the Premier League in a single season for the first time since 2008-09 against Everton, while Man Utd last did so against Aston Villa in 1996-97.
- Manchester United have failed to score a single goal in their last six league meetings with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Spurs – each of their last four such matches have finished goalless.
- Chelsea manager Tuchel has become just the second coach not to concede a single goal in his four home matches in the Premier League after Brendan Rodgers in 2011-12 with Swansea City. Including his final two such matches in charge of PSG, Tuchel has gone six matches without conceding at home in league competition.
‘It’s a penalty, 100%’ – what they said
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, speaking to Match of the Day, said: “We had the better chances and played high up the pitch in the second half. We have to accept a draw in the end and a clean sheet. We had a very good reaction after half time. We stepped up and got better and better with higher recoveries. We went for a win but it did not happen.
“In this highest level, at some points, maybe two big chances have to be enough. If you don’t do that then we have to be alert and aware of the counter-attacks and quality from Manchester United. We did this and defended very well. This was extraordinary effort and quality. We take it and go on.”
On the VAR no-penalty decision, Tuchel added: “I was anxious before I thought I was totally wrong. From my point of view it was totally clear that a man in red touched it. When I saw it on the iPad I could not understand what was going on as it was only the man with the red shirt who touched it. I did not understand what the check was for.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking to Match of the Day, said: “It was a penalty, 100% nailed on. If that’s a natural position for a hand to be in when the ball comes in then I must be blind.
“We wanted to win. Apart from the last quality or pass being not good enough, we had great pressing, desire [and] work-rate. There was a great save by David de Gea and we got the clean sheet.
“That’s what let us down, that quality on the ball. The first half was scrappy. Poor game really. But then we played some good stuff at times. When we settled we created a few chances but we didn’t have enough.
Chelsea travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Thursday (20:15 GMT), while Manchester United are away to Crystal Palace on Wednesday (20:15 GMT).
- 20Hudson-OdoiSubstituted forJamesat 45′minutes
- 21ChilwellBooked at 62mins
- 22ZiyechSubstituted forWernerat 78′minutes
- 18GiroudSubstituted forPulisicat 65′minutes
- 1de Gea
- 5MaguireBooked at 79mins
- 17FredBooked at 50mins
- 18Bruno Fernandes
- 11GreenwoodSubstituted forMartialat 79′minutes
- 34van de Beek
Match ends, Chelsea 0, Manchester United 0.
Second Half ends, Chelsea 0, Manchester United 0.
Attempt saved. Fred (Manchester United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Bruno Fernandes.
Attempt saved. Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt blocked. Mason Mount (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Mason Mount (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Daniel James (Manchester United).
Reece James (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Luke Shaw (Manchester United).
Foul by Christian Pulisic (Chelsea).
Harry Maguire (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Mason Mount (Chelsea).
Luke Shaw (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Andreas Christensen.
Attempt saved. Timo Werner (Chelsea) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by N’Golo Kanté.
Attempt missed. Andreas Christensen (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Mason Mount with a cross following a set piece situation.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Harry Maguire (Manchester United).
Substitution, Manchester United. Anthony Martial replaces Mason Greenwood.