Manchester United were unable to end their winless run at Old Trafford, being held to an uninspiring 0-0 draw by Chelsea on a rain-soaked night in the North West.
It was a game that was somewhat played out like a game of chess, both sides seemingly unprepared to take too many risks following their early-season inconsistencies.
Chelsea dominated possession but didn’t really threaten Manchester United’s backline, and it would be man-of-the-moment Marcus Rashford who was presented with the first real big chance of the game on 35 minutes. The England international was slipped through by Juan Mata, though his effort from the edge of the box was fired too close to ‘keeper Eduoard Mendy who saved with his legs.
Having been brought in to replace the error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mendy produced another decent save six minutes later to keep out a first time effort from former Chelsea favourite, Mata.
Deadline day signing Edinson Cavani made his first appearance in a Red Devils shirt, replacing Dan James as a second-half substitute, and the 33-year-old almost scored with his first touch in English football as he got across the front of his man, only to see his effort ripple the side netting.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 24, 2020
Chelsea – marshalled by veteran Brazilian Thiago Silva – defended stoically throughout, though Rashford thought he had won it for Manchester United as the game ticked into added time, but he was again thwarted by Mendy between the sticks; the summer signing from Rennes diving acrobatically to his left to keep out the 22-year-old’s curling effort.
Speaking afterwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt his side were ‘the closest to winning the game’ despite it not being one that will live long in the memory.
“Well, two teams that played in Europe [in midweek], I think it shows a little bit in the first half, not the greatest, and I think in the second half, we push on,” he told Sky Sports. “If that Stretford End was full, we might get some help and get that ball over the line.
“I think we pegged them back, created half-decent opportunities, there was a very good block by Thiago Silva and great save by the keeper, he’s made a couple of fantastic saves against Marcus. All in all, a good defensive performance and we created enough chances that could have given us the win.
“We started sloppily, but after 20-25 minutes, for the rest of the game, we kept more possession, created some pressure without too many big chances, but the ones we got were good ones.
“Every team has got their way to play, and that system – three narrow forwards and three centre backs – it’s hard to play against. They play it well, they played it against us last season in the FA Cup and beat us, and today, I thought we were the closest to winning the game.
“I think it’s a solid performance after the week we’ve had, we’ve had a very good week with two wins and a draw.”
Asked about Cavani’s cameo from the bench, Solskjaer admitted his side are lacking urgency amid games being played behind closed doors.
Thiago Silva's game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
94% pass accuracy
2 tackles made
0 x dribbled past
0 fouls committed
0 goals conceded
Class is permanent. pic.twitter.com/ZsNfR1csaT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 24, 2020
“Nice flick [from Cavani with his first touch] and he almost another when Thiago Silva had a great block and that would have been great for him.
“If we’d have had that stadium, that Stretford End full behind that goal, I’m sure we could have created more pressure and more urgency, because that lacks. It’s a different sport [without fans]. The fans here help you and we miss them.”
Manchester United now face back to back home games, firstly against RB Leipzig in the Champions League before welcoming Arsenal to Old Trafford in the Premier League next weekend.