Chelsea earned a creditable point at Old Trafford after playing out a second consecutive goalless draw with defences on top again.
The game’s best chance fell to Marcus Rashford in the first half, but Edouard Mendy did superbly to keep him out with his right foot. In his first away game in the Premier League, the keeper also produced a decent stop to deny Juan Mata, and in stoppage time he was at full stretch to thwart Rashford again. Three fine saves made it an excellent night’s work for the Senegalese.
The Blues were largely solid in defence, which will please Frank Lampard, who utilised a 3-4-3 formation for the first time this term. But like against Sevilla on Tuesday night, things didn’t quite click for us in the final third despite plenty of sharp movement and attacking intent when the opportunities arose. Christian Pulisic had our best two attempts, while we had a very strong claim for a penalty ignored after what looked a clear foul on Cesar Azpilicueta by Harry Maguire.
Concentration levels remained high ensuring there was no late drama, as against Southampton a week ago, with Mendy’s 91st-minute save from Rashford securing a first shutout in the league away from home since the victory at Tottenham last Christmas.
Azpilicueta for Mason Mount was the only change to the XI that started our last league game, with the skipper joining Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma in a three-man central defence flanked by wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
Jorginho and N’Golo Kante were again Lampard’s midfield pairing of choice, with Kai Havertz and Pulisic supporting Timo Werner in attack.
The rain had been teeming down in Manchester long before kick-off, and there was no let-up once the action got underway. Chelsea’s patient passing early on required an extra zip to shift it along the sodden Old Trafford turf.
By the midway point of the first half, we had enjoyed a 65 per cent share of possession but, bar a couple of corners, very little of note to show for it.
Signs of life from both sides in the final third emerged around the half-hour. Pulisic had two decent attempts, one saved and one deflected wide, and Mendy impressively kept out Rashford with an outstretched right leg after a rare Chelsea mistake in midfield allowed him to race clear.
Azpilicueta and then Rashford had penalty appeals ignored as half-time approached, with our skipper's claim a very strong one with Maguire's arm around his neck. There was still time for Mendy to dive to his right to push a typically well-placed Mata shot from outside the box around the post before the 45 was up, but it was clear more quality would be required to break the deadlock.
Seven minutes into the second half, perhaps our most fluid attack of the game yet created a yard of space for Werner, but Harry Maguire was across to block his left-footed effort.
It remained congested and cagey. Shortly before the hour, Paul Pogba and debutant Edinson Cavani replaced Mata and James. It nearly reaped instant dividends as the Uruguayan attacker’s near-post flick skidded into the side-netting.
A wonderful right-wing cross from James agonisingly evaded both Havertz and the sliding Pulisic, and our American was disappointed Werner didn’t pick him out in space after James impressively won the ball back.
As the contest entered its final quarter it did become a little more stretched, and Azpilicueta was at his best to block a Rashford effort after he had found some green grass to run into.
Twenty minutes remained when Lampard shuffled his pack, bringing Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount on for Werner and Havertz.
As the game entered its closing stages, the hosts asserted greater dominance of territory and possession. Having kept a corner alive with 10 minutes left, Thiago Silva was in the right place to block a Pogba shot, and nearer full-time the Brazilian denied his former PSG team-mate Cavani a debut goal.
James was probably our outstanding performer, and a couple more whipped crosses caused red-shirted defenders problems late on, but that was as close as we would get to a dramatic winner.
The hosts had the final attempt when Rashford fizzed in a strike from 20 yards, but Mendy was equal to it despite the ball traveling through a crowd of bodies. Our keeper had certainly earned his clean sheet.
Russia! The Blues face Krasnodar on Wednesday in our second Champions League assignment of the season, and first away from home.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Thiago Silva, Zouma; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Havertz (Mount 71), Werner (Abraham 71), Pulisic (Ziyech 81).
Unused subs Caballero, Rudiger, Kovacic, Giroud.
Booked Havertz 45+1
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw; McTominay (Greenwood 83), Fred; Mata (Pogba 58), Fernandes, James (Cavani 58); Rashford.
Unused subs Henderson, Tuanzebe, Matic, Van de Beek.
Booked Shaw 39, Fred 46, Rashford 76
Referee Martin Atkinson.