Over the past decade, this fixture has been labelled as a title decider on numerous occasions with the winner possibly going onto clinch the title. But, this year is very different.
Chelsea’s season has been a disaster. They currently sit 13th in the table, their ‘Special One’ has been removed and they are set to lose their captain and figurehead at the end of the season.
Manchester United have also struggled. The Red Devils find themselves in 5th place and are unlikely to make it into the top four. Their season has been centered around Louis Van Gaal, with his boring and lethargic style of play, which does not fit with the typical image of Manchester United.
This was a game neither side could afford to lose, while a draw did not suit both sides as well. In the end, both teams had to settle for a point.
The first 20 minutes were dominated by United, who continued their current improved run of form, while displaying a more adventurous style. Despite this, they struggled to create many chances. Their best came from Anthony Martial, who cut in from the left hand side and his shot was clawed away by Thibaut Courtois.
It took Chelsea a while to get going, at the start of the game they struggled to retain possession and they were unable to bring their in form striker, Diego Costa, into the game. But, on the 31st minute, a good run by Costa, sent him in behind of makeshift centre back Daley Blind, but his shot went just wide.
The rest of the half was mainly dominated by Chelsea, who had the better of the chances in the first period, with Oscar shooting over from close range after Costa’s attempt. Just before half time, Chelsea appealed for a penalty when John Terry’s shot was blocked by Daley Blind’s arm, but this was unintentional and was correctly not given as a penalty.
United started the better in the second half, Rooney forced a save from Courtois from long range, while Lingard almost found the corner of the goal when his shot from the edge of the box was well saved by the Belgian keeper.
The Red Devils showed intent and attacked with purpose in this period, this payed off when they went in front.
Borthwick-Jackson found space on the left hand side and sent in a menacing cross. This cross found Rooney who smartly laid the ball off to Lingard who swiveled and emphatically smashed the ball into the top corner leaving Courtois no chance this time around.
Chelsea reacted well to going behind, creating more chances. Most notably, in the 67th minute, when Cesc Fabregas’ cross eventually dropped to Ivanovic who fired a viscous volley which forced a good save by man of the moment, David De Gea.
For the rest of the game, Chelsea were looking to force an equalizer, they dominated possession and Manchester United needed to defend defiantly to keep out the Blues.
Although, in the first minute of added time, Chelsea’s persistence payed off as they leveled the encounter.
The young full back, Borthwick-Jackson, was playing the Chelsea attackers onside, which allowed Fabregas to feed a precise through ball to Costa. Borthwick-Jackson recovered well to block Costa’s first attempt but this came to no avail as Costa was able to score with a calm finish, which sent the Chelsea fans and players into delirium.
Manchester United were unlucky to not earn all 3 points, as they impressed with their newly found attacking intent, meaning they caused Chelsea problems all afternoon. Van Gaal will be disappointed with the scoreline, as his side did not take their chance to close the gap between them and their city rivals in 4th place, after their defeat to title rivals Leicester.
Chelsea would have been looking for a win prior to the game, but they will be content with a draw in the end. This was made possible by their consistent attacking of the United goal. The Blues have shown slight improvement since the appointment of Guus Hiddink, who seems to have acted as a calming influence on the Chelsea squad. This will be welcome to the the players when you consider who their previous manager was, the high intensity Jose Mourinho.
Louis Van Gaal was happy with his sides performance and he thought they deserved all three points:
I think we played a superb game until the last quarter. We did not keep the ball and we did not play the attack in the way I think we have to do. We were unlucky that we got the goal against us, it was unbelievable. We did not reward ourselves.
While Daley Blind reacted in a similar manner to his manager:
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 8, 2016
Chelsea’s manager, Guus Hiddink, was pleased with a point at the end of the game:
Guus says we deserved a point by the end of the game. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 7, 2016
Manchester United will be looking to kick on from this promising performance and put in a good run of form to boost their chances of sneaking into the top four by the end of May. This is key for Van Gaal, who is desperately trying to keep his job, with the impending figure of Jose Mourinho looming over him to potentially take over next season. While Chelsea do not have a realistic chance of moving into any of the European places in the division, Hiddink will be prioritizing the FA Cup. A win in this prestigious competition will give them a slight positive on what overwise has been an abysmal season for the Blues, who have significantly fallen below their high standards this season.