Premier League leaders Chelsea were left frustrated as Manchester United's conservative game plan earned them a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
With Cristiano Ronaldo benched, United redefined the idea of caution in the first half, taking 21 minutes to touch the ball in the final third and 44 minutes to have a touch in Chelsea's box, but the hosts struggled to break them down.
Callum Hudson-Odoi saw an effort well saved by David de Gea, and later in the half the goalkeeper tipped Antonio Rudiger's long-range shot onto the crossbar, but United stunned Chelsea to take the lead moments after half-time as Jadon Sancho feasted on Jorginho's mistake to run through on goal unopposed and finish (50) for his first Premier League goal.
But Jorginho had a chance to redeem himself as Aaron Wan-Bissaka kicked the back of Thiago Silva's leg in the box, allowing the Italian to score from the spot for 1-1 (69).
Chelsea huffed and puffed but could not find a winner - Rudiger blazed over the bar in the 97th minute unmarked at the far post - meaning Michael Carrick remains unbeaten in what could be his final match in charge with the imminent arrival of Ralf Rangnick as interim manager. Man Utd are eighth, while Chelsea stay top, now just a point ahead of Man City.
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Chelsea: Mendy (6), Chalobah (7), Silva (7), Rudiger (7), James (7), Alonso (6), Jorginho (5), Loftus-Cheek (6), Ziyech (6), Hudson-Odoi (7), Werner (5)
Subs: Mount (6), Pulisic (5), Lukaku (n/a).
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (4), Lindelof (6), Bailly (6), Telles (6), Fred (6), Matic (7), McTominay (8), Sancho (7), Fernandes (5), Rashford (6).
Subs: Ronaldo (5), Lingard (5), Van de Beek (n/a).
Man of the match: Scott McTominay
How Man Utd game plan worked a treat in draw
Carrick's decision to drop Ronaldo - it was only the fourth time in nine years he has started a league game on the bench - and start a midfield three of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred pointed to a vigilant approach in a game where a draw would have been seen as a good result.
There were suggestions that Rangnick had helped picked the XI at Stamford Bridge, but Carrick denied this on several occasions after the game.
A lot of people having a go at Michael Carrick for dropping Ronaldo and picking that MDF. I’ve a feeling the the incoming manager has picked that team as it’s a huge departure from midweek and what they’ve been doing— Gary Neville (@GNev2) November 28, 2021
Though United did indeed camp in their own half during the first 45 minutes, individual mistakes almost cost them in the opening four minutes.
First, Hakim Ziyech turned away from Eric Bailly all too easily but was blocked by De Gea, and the goalkeeper had to be at his best moments later as Wan-Bissaka's failed interception allowed Hudson-Odoi in, but his effort was saved with Timo Werner in a better position beside him.
It was by no means adventurous in an attacking from the visitors, their first touch in the final third coming in the 21st minute as Bruno Fernandes harmlessly struck wide. At the other end United became so packed in that Chelsea were reduced to long-range efforts, Rudiger cracking the crossbar from 25 yards, although De Gea got the slightest of touches.
United ended the half with just 32 per cent possession, no shot on target and an xG of just 0.02, but the statistics meant little as the visitors scored against the run of play.
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Attempting to take down a long clearance with both Sancho and Marcus Rashford bearing down on him, Jorginho's miscontrol allowed Sancho to take over and pile forward unopposed. He had time to settle himself, and slotted low past Edouard Mendy for his second goal in as many games.
Chelsea skipper Jorginho stood head in hands looking back at the wreckage behind him, knowing he should have cleared the ball at the first opportunity, prompting both Roy Keane and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to describe the decision as "arrogant" after the game on Sky Sports.
Werner then hooked a decent chance wide as the ball fell kindly to him at a corner, Ronaldo was introduced on the hour mark, but United handed Chelsea a chance to level as Wan-Bissaka clumsily kicked the back of Thiago Silva's leg as he went to clear in the box. Jorginho stepped up, and sat De Gea down to convert.
With 20 minutes remaining, Chelsea could smell a winner, but despite the introduction of Romelu Lukaku after an injury lay-off, they could not find it.
Wan-Bissaka appeared from nowhere to block Werner in the box, and in the seventh minute of stoppage time Rudiger blasted into the stands unmarked 10 yards out from a Christian Pulisic cross.
United had their own chances, too, as the game opened up late on, but the best fell to Fred, who harmlessly chipped into Mendy's hands with Ronaldo and Jesse Lingard in better positions.
Ronaldo was named on the bench for Man Utd for only the second time in the Premier League this season, with Carrick naming a midfield three of McTominay, Fred and Matic. Fernandes, Rashford and Sancho were in front of them, while Bailly and Lindelof were paired at centre-back.
Chelsea made four changes from the side that beat Leicester last weekend; Alonso came in for the injured Chilwell, while Werner, Ziyech and Loftus-Cheek came in for Havertz, Mount and the injured Kante. Lukaku returned to the bench.
Despite trailing with 21 minutes remaining, Chelsea will see this as two points dropped - they had 24 shots on United's goal - but after weeks of instability, this makeshift United side got what they came to Stamford Bridge to achieve as Rangnick waits in the wings.
🔴 Man Utd are now 8 PL games without defeat v Chelsea - their best unbeaten run in this League fixture since 10 games from 1938-50— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 28, 2021
🔵 This is the 3rd time Chelsea have conceded 5 goals or fewer after 13 PL games - all other teams have done so only 3 times between them pic.twitter.com/wrRkr7Awfh
Keane: Man Utd spirited, but still question marks
Roy Keane on Sky Sports:
"It's a big point to Manchester United because Chelsea were by far the better team. But United were spirited, stuck at it, so they will take a little bit of momentum into their season now. Hopefully they can kick on.
"Lots of changes over the last week, a new manager coming in next week, but there are still huge question marks over a lot of these players. But they deserve credit because they stuck together in what was a spirited performance rather than one of real quality. I said if United were to get anything from the game it would maybe be down to a bit of arrogance from Chelsea, which proved to be the case with the goal.
"To say United played well today, or during the week [is a stretch], but they've got two positive results and that is what you always fall back on, the results. David de Gea's said after the game United fought for everything, but that is what you should be doing every week. It's as if these players pick and choose their moments when they are up for it.
"If you want to play for Manchester United and compete for titles, you do that week in, week out. There was spirit today, and they deserve credit for that, but ultimately you want more."
What the managers said...
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on Sky Sports: "I'm absolutely happy. I was happy to coach the team, I saw a huge effort, big intensity, so many ball recoveries in the opponents' half, put the pressure up high. We controlled the counter-attacks before they started, we were brave and courageous.
"They defended deep and maybe you need the first goal to open up a bit and gain the last per cent of freedom and confidence to have follow-ups and big chances on goal. If you don't score, you always run a bit behind because you feel like you're the stronger team, you play in the opponents' half so we have two or three big chances we should have maybe used. But, in general, I am very happy with the way we played. I was pleased with our aggression, our rhythm and the intensity."
Man Utd caretaker boss Michael Carrick on Sky Sports: "I'm disappointed actually. When you are in front in a game like this to have it taken away is disappointing. I'm proud of the players and the group all week. In a difficult situation we tried to make the best of it. But there is that little bitter feeling. We came to win the game. A little disappointed, I can't lie.
"I don't think it was a penalty at all. They have had a lot of shots David had two saves which we knew before the game he would have to make one or two. Other than that I have felt quite comfortable in the game. Of course we want to be better. I am not getting carried away but I thought we defended well. I cannot fault the boys one bit. To come away disappointed and to feel like you have left something out there is a positive."
- During November so far, Manchester United (17) have mustered the fewest number of shots of all Premier League sides, whilst also facing more shots than any team (60).
- United managed just one further attempt after taking the lead this evening, with their total of three shots their lowest in a Premier League game since April 2017 against Manchester City (also 3).
- Chelsea are now winless in their last eight Premier League games against Man Utd (D5 L3).
- In their last two Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge against Burnley and Manchester United, Chelsea have attempted 49 shots, faced just eight themselves and had 100 touches in their opponent's penalty area.
Chelsea go to Watford at 7.30pm on Wednesday evening in the Premier League, while Man Utd host Arsenal on Thursday at 8.15pm. Free highlights from both games will be available on the Sky Sports website, App and YouTube channel.