David de Gea made a crucial stop with his feet to deny Callum Hudson-Odoi inside four minutes, but it wasn’t until Antonio Rudiger let fly from 25 yards that Chelsea threatened again, with the defender smashing the bar in an opening half that was dominated by the hosts.
United took the lead against the run of play when Jadon Sancho pounced upon a heavy touch from Jorginho under a high ball and finished past Edouard Mendy. Jorginho then had the chance to make amends after Aaron Wan-Bissaka conceded a penalty for catching Thiago Silva in the box, and the Italian was cool from the spot as he finished past De Gea.
Chelsea had the majority of the ball in the closing stages but United were presented with a late chance when Mendy passed straight to Fred, who couldn’t convert. Rudiger then had a golden opportunity to win it at the death but he blazed a volley over the bar, as Carrick’s side held on for a point.
Here are five things we learned:
United produce battling performance
Ralf Rangnick has not even taken his place in the United dugout but his influence appeared to be all over their performance at Stamford Bridge. The absence of Cristiano Ronaldo in the United line-up was the headline change before kick-off, and there were other alterations in Carrick’s second match in charge, too.
There were early clues almost from kick-off that United would be pressing with more vigour and precision than in their previous matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but it was far from the defining characteristic of their display at Stamford Bridge.
United spent the majority of the opening exchanges dropping deep as Chelsea controlled possession. When they did look to press, Bruno Fernandes, starting in Ronaldo’s central striker role, appeared to set the tone, directing his teammates on when and whom to target. Behind him, Fred and Scott McTominay were positioned higher than usual, either side of Nemanja Matic.
The problem, however, was that United were incredibly poor on the ball when they were able to turn it over, with Fernandes in particular erratic in possession. That meant that there were fewer counter-pressing opportunities available to them, as United spent so little time in the Chelsea half.
United seemed to be fairly happy with that, though, and it was hard to escape the idea that they were simply content to pack the midfield, turn the match into a scrap and frustrate the Premier League leaders by staying in the contest.
That game plan paid dividends when Sancho was able to pounce on Jorginho’s error – and the pressure that Sancho and Marcus Rashford supplied was indicative of their overall energy levels. It was a smash and grab, but that almost felt like the plan.
Ronaldo was eventually called from the bench on the hour but he had little impact on the match. Indeed, United were at their best in the 15-minute spell at the start of the second half when Sancho and Rashford were at their brightest – and the fact that Ronaldo had no bearing on that is an interesting dilemma for Rangnick to inherit.
Opportunity missed for Chelsea
Make no mistake, this was an opportunity missed for Chelsea. United came into this match ninth in the Premier League and so dropping valuable points in the title race after dominating the match and gifting their opponents an opening goal will be the source of a great deal of frustration for Thomas Tuchel.
Chelsea were unable to get any joy through their wing-backs, who have been so influential in recent weeks. Reece James and Marcos Alonso were kept quiet by United’s defensive structure, and the lack of creativity out with that will be a concern for the German.
The absence of N’Golo Kante was a blow, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek was unable to provide the same drive and spark in midfield, while Alonso was also a step down from Ben Chilwell’s recent displays, which is a worry as the latter could be out for several weeks with a knee injury.
A point at home to United was enough to keep Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table, and Carrick’s side emerge with credit thanks to their own battling display, but the Blues had the opportunity to inflict further misery on the visitors and they didn’t take it.
Sancho continues United resurgence
With two goals in two games now, Sancho is starting to settle into life at United following his difficult start to the season.
The England international backed up his impressive performance away to Villarreal on Tuesday by providing his side their breakthrough moment at Stamford Bridge.
It was a gift, sure, with Jorginho’s heavy touch presenting him with the whole half to run into, but he still had to read that the error was coming before he stayed cool to slot past Mendy in the Chelsea goal.
The 21-year-old has started United’s last three matches on his favoured right wing and that has undoubtedly helped his recent performances.
Sancho benefited, too, from the second-half performance of Rashford, who after an anonymous first-half showing was back to his best on the left wing.
As previously mentioned, Carrick’s substitutions dampened United’s attacking spark – and much of their threat was taken away once Sancho and Rashford were brought off.
United hold strong without Maguire and Varane
United fans were fearing the trip to Stamford Bridge without their first-choice centre-backs, with Harry Maguire suspended and Raphael Varane injured. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly were the starting pair, and there was even a rare sighting of Phil Jones on the United bench.
Despite those concerns, United were fairly solid at the home of the Premier League leaders. There was an early warning as Wan-Bissaka and Lindelof failed to deal with a bouncing ball, allowing Hudson-Odoi an early shot from close range that was well saved by De Gea, and although the United goalkeeper had to make a string of saves, Chelsea were limited to few clear chances.
The exception, of course, was the penalty, conceded needlessly by Wan-Bissaka as he accidentally kicked out at Silva in the box. De Gea was unable to repeat his recent penalty heroics, but Wan-Bissaka made amends himself later in the match with a crucial block on Timo Werner – one of several that United’s defenders made in the closing stages.
Werner frustrations were a reminder of last season
It was easy to look at Werner’s performance at Stamford Bridge and be transported to Chelsea’s difficult winter of last season, as the German’s misses and profligacy in front of goal was a theme of their winless run under Frank Lampard.
Werner was handed a rare start against United following his cameo against Juventus on Tuesday, when he scored, but he was unable to repeat the trick here.
Indeed, the hallmarks of a usual Werner display were all there. Some bad luck, sure, but also a fair share of poor finishing. With Romelu Lukaku, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic all starting on the bench, this was a chance for Werner but it ended in more frustration for him.