Man United and Chelsea play out another dour goalless draw
Solskjaer’s side denied first-half penalty with chances at a premium at Stamford Bridge
Callum Hudson-Odoi handles the ball in the penalty area during Chelsea’s goalless draw with Manchester United. Photograph: Ian Walton/PA
It is the statistic that undermines the good that Manchester United have done in this season’s Premier League. They have failed to score a single goal in open play against opponents from the so-called big six.
Their only return in what is now seven attempts came from Bruno Fernandes’s penalty in the 6-1 home defeat against Tottenham. This was their fifth 0-0 draw and, although it was more watchable than some of the others, it illustrated why they lag so far behind the leaders, Manchester City. In the decisive matches, they have mislaid their creativity and cutting edge.
The draw did extend United’s club record unbeaten top-flight away sequence to 20 matches and, more importantly, it kept them six points above fifth-placed Chelsea. A Champions League finish is the most likely prize for United’s endeavours in the league. It remains well within their grasp.
Chelsea could be unhappier with the result, although it continued Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start to life at the club. His run now stands at nine games in all competitions, with six wins and only two goals conceded.
The problem for the new manager has been in front of goal. His team are not scoring enough because they are not creating enough. Hakim Ziyech blew the best of a limited crop of chances when he was denied by David de Gea while United’s regrets centred on the non-award of a tenth minute penalty after Édouard Mendy had beaten away a swerving Marcus Rashford free-kick.
Mason Greenwood challenged for the breaking ball, leaning towards it with his shoulder and, at that point, Callum Hudson-Odoi seemed to nudge it away with his hand. The referee, Stuart Attwell, was advised to review the incident on the pitchside monitor and, given that Hudson-Odoi’s hand was a significant way from his body, it felt as though the penalty award was inevitable. Attwell saw it differently.
United’s unbeaten sequence on their travels had started at Stamford Bridge in February of last year with a 2-0 win and they pressed high with their front four at the outset; they were determined to not to allow Chelsea to dictate the tempo. But Tuchel’s team brought tremendous energy, too, with his signature pressing patterns to the fore. Time on the ball was at a premium during a first half for the tactical purist. The players’ technical ability in tight spaces was tested and nobody dared to lose possession against the press. Defensively, the levels were high; the strength and decision-making beyond reproach by players on both sides. Sadly, though, there was precious little by way of chances.
Tuchel has prioritised control and security. He gave starting opportunities to a trio of players that he has not yet counted on in the league – Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kanté and Ziyech – and his team’s best moment before the interval came when Antonio Rüdiger switched the play with a long diagonal from left to right for Hudson-Odoi. His whipped cross was just in front of Olivier Giroud. Ziyech also shot at De Gea while Hudson-Odoi lashed off target.
Hudson-Odoi did not reappear for the second-half – he was spotted with a strapping on his knee – but Chelsea restarted on the front foot, having been more reactive in the first period. Their intent was greater and Ziyech ought to have scored on 48 minutes after Chiwell’s low cut-back came through to him.
Ziyech, who was poor in the first half, made a clean connection but De Gea, who was moving in the opposite direction, threw back a strong hand to save. On the rebound, Hudson-Odoi’s replacement, Reece James, saw his shot blocked by Luke Shaw.
It had been clear from an early juncture that one moment, one mistake could be decisive. Could either team force anything? United were slightly more threatening in the second half, with the off-colour Fernandes missing a pass to Rashford on the counter; Greenwood whipping too high; Scott McTominay shooting at Mendy and Fred curling just past the angle of post and crossbar.
Tuchel introduced Christian Pulisic for Giroud and asked Mason Mount to operate in a withdrawn central attacking role – in a 3-4-1-2 system, which he has used previously. Mount’s best moment had come midway through the second half when he took a flick from Ziyech to burst forward only for McTominay to make the challenge. - Guardian