Just like in the reverse fixture back in the autumn, Chelsea and Manchester United played out a goalless draw to share the Premier League points at Stamford Bridge.
There were chances at both ends and work for both goalkeepers throughout the 90 minutes. David de Gea made a crucial stop to deny Hakim Ziyech early in the second half, while Edouard Mendy was also influential when keeping out a fierce drive from Scott McTominay.
Yet, despite 28 shots in the game overall, neither side could conjure a winner on the last day of winter in west London, leaving Thomas Tuchel still unbeaten as Blues boss.
There were three changes from our impressive Champions League victory in midweek as Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante and Ziyech came into the side in place of Marcos Alonso, Jorginho and Timo Werner.
United made two alterations from their last Premier League game a week ago, McTominay and Mason Greenwood coming into the side. Edinson Cavani missed out with injury, as did Thiago Silva for the Blues.
After our cagey meeting at Old Trafford back in October, this contest started with plenty of promise and no less needle between two of the league’s top five at kick-off.
The hosts began brightest and fashioned the first opening after just a couple of minutes as Ziyech and Mason Mount burst forward on the break, the latter’s cross towards Olivier Giroud just flicked behind.
Victor Lindelof made a similarly important intervention to turn the ball away from danger from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s dangerous delivery but it was the visitors, unbeaten on the road in the Premier League in over a year, who forced the game’s first shot on target after 15 minutes.
The opportunity arrived after Mount was penalised for a contested foul on the edge of the box, a decision that drew complaints from Tuchel but handed Marcus Rashford the chance to take aim.
The England striker had scored a free-kick here last season in the Carabao Cup to seal victory for United and his latest effort tested Mendy, forcing the Blues keeper to watch the ball’s flight carefully and punch it away.
In the aftermath, the bouncing ball appeared to strike an arm as Greenwood and Hudson-Odoi challenged for it and the VAR recommended referee Stuart Attwell review the incident again on the pitchside monitor. After careful consideration, the evidence was deemed inconclusive.
Almost immediately down the other end, Ziyech brought the first save from De Gea down low as the Moroccan’s effort from 20 yards was comfortably gathered.
Chelsea chances come and go
Chelsea looked most threatening when breaking forward quickly on the counter-attack and one such move saw Mount switch the ball with pace and precision to Hudson-Odoi on the right flank.
The winger combined neatly with the overlapping Cesar Azpilicueta and then took the return, his first touch teeing it up to strike on the volley. Despite cutting across the ball, the Wandsworth wing-back lacked the accuracy to trouble De Gea.
United’s Spanish goalkeeper almost had a moment to forget shortly afterwards when a wayward clearance out landed straight at the feet of Giroud. Yet with time and space, the striker opted for a first-time shot and the ball landed high in the Shed End.
The 34-year-old, whose incredible overhead kick in Romania had helped us beat Atletico Madrid in midweek, then had perhaps our best chance of the half 10 minutes before the break.
Another switch from left to right fashioned the space, this time Toni Rudiger providing the punch out to Hudson-Odoi, whose delightful delivery was so inviting for Giroud but just in front of his leaping dive.
Yet it was United who ended the half in the ascendancy, with Azpilicueta in particular forced into some intelligent interceptions in and around our 18-yard box.
Keepers kept busy
There was a Chelsea change at the interval as Reece James replaced Hudson-Odoi, with the latter emerging to watch the second half with heavy strapping on his knee, indicating a knock. Within minutes of the restart, the hosts had forced De Gea into his best save of the afternoon.
The move came down the left this time, Chilwell leading the charge before picking out Ziyech in the box with a good cutback. The forward hit his instant strike well but De Gea was equal to the effort, readjusting his dive to fling out an arm and deny a certain breakthrough goal. James was first to the rebound but saw his powerful drive blocked at close range.
Mendy was also made to work for his enduring clean sheet as the half wore on. His save from McTominay on the hour was probably more impressive than it looked as the ball came fizzing through a crowd of bodies, although one from Rashford two minutes later was slightly more routine.
Defences on top
United’s efforts that didn’t make Mendy work still went close, Greenwood bending just wide from inside the D before Fred was even nearer the top corner as he hit a right-footed curler narrowly beyond the goal’s frame.
As a well-matched contest entered its final quarter, there was the possibility that either side could snatch all three points. Chelsea, buoyed by not yet having conceded a goal at the Bridge under Tuchel, were encouraged to push and take risks in search of that winner.
Mount, omnipresent and influential, instigated one such chance with a mazy run initiated on halfway with a lovely exchange with Ziyech, though McTominay tracked him all the way before blocking.
The game’s best opportunities at the death fell to the hosts. Substitute Timo Werner almost got on the end of an excellent James cross at the back post but was thwarted by Lindelof, while Christian Pulisic fired over in the dying stages.
It meant a fourth consecutive Premier League clean sheet at home for the Blues for the first time in over three years, albeit a share of the three points.
The big games keep on rolling next week with a trip to Anfield on Thursday night to take on Liverpool, before Everton make the trip in the opposite direction four days later,
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi (James h/t), Kante, Kovacic, Chilwell; Ziyech (Werner 78), Mount; Giroud (Pulisic 65)
Unused subs Kepa, Zouma, Alonso, Emerson, Jorginho, Havertz
Booked Chilwell 62
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood (Martial 79)
Unused subs Henderson, Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe, Matic, Van De Beek, Diallo
Booked Fred 50; Maguire 79
Referee Stuart Attwell