Thomas Tuchel‘s side had the better of the opening stages and, had it no been for David De Gea, may well have found themselves comfortably ahead at the break. The Spaniard looked assured in United’s net as he was called into action on several occasions – his denial of Kai Havertz when left to face the German one-on-one was easily the most important moment in an otherwise ordinary first 45 minutes.
However, with just under an hour played, the game then exploded into life. First, Chelsea took a deserved lead through Marcus Alonso, who rifled home a back-post volley after Havertz glanced on a clipped cross from Reece James.
Cristiano Ronaldo then hit an almost immediate response, collecting Nemanja Matic’s looped pass before rifling past the hapless Edouard Mendy. James then squandered a golden opportunity to win the contest as his sweeping left-footed strike clipped the outside of the post.
Here, Mirror Football assess the winners and losers from Old Trafford…
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The returning Chelsea right-back was a constant threat and ran United left-back Alex Telles ragged all night. James’ strength, pace and movement proved all too much for the Brazilian who was caught out of position time and time again.
Had Havertz been more clinical, James could have claimed a couple of first-half assists. All of Chelsea’s good work came from the right and the 22-year-old in particular, who was instrumental in Alonso’s opener.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has been the English right-back stealing the headlines in recent weeks, but James once again underlined what a complete full-back he is during a dominant display at Old Trafford. Man of the Match, without doubt.
David De Gea
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The Spanish stopper admitted this week that has felt “embarrassed” and “horrible” on countless occasions while playing for United this season. However, he should take great pride from his individual display on Thursday night.
De Gea was the difference for the Red Devils in the first half and, almost single-handedly, kept his side in the game. The 31-year-old crucially denied Havertz in a first-half one-on-one – one of a number of times he was called upon in the opening 45 minutes.
United’s star-studded squad have endured significant struggles through this season, but De Gea has been one of the few exceptions. At Old Trafford on Thursday night, the keeper once again did his part to avoid further humiliation.
Michael Steele/Getty Images)
In scoring United’s equaliser at Old Trafford, Ronaldo broke his Chelsea curse. Prior to Thursday night, the Portuguese superstar had failed to score in any of his previous 11 Premier League appearances against the West Londoners.
However, with one deft touch and one swing of his right boot, the 37-year-old put an end to his Blues hoodoo. The strike means Ronaldo has remarkably now scored eight of United’s last nine goals.
It has been a far from ideal return to United this season as the Red Devils continue to look a long way short of their Premier League rivals. However, Ronaldo should be proud of his individual efforts once again as he notched his 16th goal of the league season.
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With Luke Shaw out injured, Telles once again had an opportunity to impress. However, the left-back proved to be one of United’s weakest links.
The Brazilian was constantly caught out of position as the ever-dangerous James exploited the space in behind him. Telles’ tendency to attack was clearly targeted and it came as little surprise to see Chelsea’s opener arrive from down their right.
Ahead of kick-off, Ralf Rangnick warned his United players that incoming manager Erik ten Hag “will be watching” and Telles will have done little to impress his new boss with this performance.
Chelsea could have been comfortably in front come half time had Havertz shown more of a ruthless side. The German squandered several chances in the first 45 minutes, including a tame header, a mis-hit effort into the side net and fluffed strike when in one-on-one against De Gea.
Tuchel looked evidently frustrated when the 22-year-old wasted Chelsea’s best chance of the opening 45 and it came as little surprise to see him hauled off with 70 minute played. On came Romelu Lukaku in his stead.
Havertz has often been the Blues’ go-to man this season, scoring all manner of important goals and showing everything that Lukaku has lacked. However, Thursday just wasn’t to be his night.
Having scarcely been used by Rangnick since his arrival, Marcus Rashford was awarded a rare start as injuries took their toll on United. Both Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho were unavailable, proving the 24-year-old with a golden opportunity to show his current manager what he’s been missing.
However, it didn’t go to plan. Rashford continued to look devoid of confidence and was anonymous throughout much of the contest.
The England starlet appears in dire need of a summer break and the chance to write this season off. A fresh start under Ten Hag is very much needed.