Manchester United and Chelsea ground out a drab goalless draw in the Old Trafford rain that will convince no-one either side will be challenging for the Premier League this season.
Chelsea will probably be happier with a point and might have had more if United skipper Harry Maguire had been punished for wrapping his arm around the throat of Cesar Azpilicueta as he defended a first-half corner.
Although they remain stuck in the bottom half of the table, United were at least able to avoid losing a third straight home league game at the start of the season for the first time since 1930.
In addition, they can also point to three good saves from Edouard Mendy, two to deny Marcus Rashford, including one in the final minute, and one where Bruno Fernandes was thwarted.
However, Chelsea’s biggest scare was Mendy passing the ball across his goal and out for a corner in the first half when trying to pass to Thiago Silva.
Neither Edinson Cavani, on his debut, nor Paul Pogba could change things in the home side’s favour after they were introduced as substitutes. Mason Greenwood was given the final eight minutes to make an impression – but did not.
Chelsea gain in defence, lose in attack
After conceding three times in two of their previous three league games, today’s clean sheet, after denying Sevilla in similar fashion on Wednesday, does provide Chelsea with the kind of platform they have been lacking so far this season.
The return of Thiago Silva to anchor a three-man defence provided solidity. Yet it also seemed to cost Chelsea their edge in attack.
Too often Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic were left trying to take United’s defence on alone and rarely did the visitors mount concerted pressure around the United box, even though they dominated possession for long periods.
England defender Reece James looked their most inventive attacking threat with his forceful bursts down the right flank. However, his final ball was poor and United keeper David de Gea did not have to make a meaningful save.
Sixth place may look presentable for Frank Lampard’s men at the moment but they could slide down the league over the weekend and evidently, a large summer outlay is yet to pay dividends.
Rashford repelled by Mendy
It has been another amazing week for Marcus Rashford.
After getting the Government to overturn its own policy on providing free school meals to children forced to stay home during the spring lockdown, the England striker responded to a lacklustre response to his request for half-term meals by summoning support from everywhere apart from Downing Street.
Even Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp publicly backed Rashford, which considering the antipathy between their respective clubs is some going.
What Rashford does on the pitch is also important and this was a frustrating experience.
He was caught up in the general non-event of the first 25 minutes. On one United counter, he was screaming for a pass over the top from Juan Mata that he could chase beyond the Chelsea defence. Instead, the ball went sideways to Luke Shaw and was lost.
Mata did send Rashford through after Fernandes won possession inside the visitors’ half but Mendy denied him with a feet-first stop. By half-time, Rashford still looked in discomfort after he had gone down in pain after a tangle of legs with N’Golo Kante.
He recovered and after being moved to the left following the introduction of Cavani, remained a threat, with Azpilicueta blocking his low shot before Mendy kept out his final effort.
It was largely an evening of frustration, summed up as he smashed the ball away in irritation as the final whistle sounded.
Rare away clean sheet for Chelsea – the best of the stats
Manchester United have failed to win any of their first three home games to a league campaign for the first time since the 1972-73 season.
Chelsea have kept their first Premier League clean sheet outside of London since a goalless draw at Leicester on the final day of the 2018-19 season under Maurizio Sarri.
Manchester United are without a home league win in five games (D3 L2), their longest run without victory at Old Trafford since February 1990 (6 games).
Edouard Mendy became the first Chelsea goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in both of his first two Premier League games for the club since Petr Cech in August 2004.
Mendy became the first Chelsea goalkeeper to keep a Premier League clean sheet at Old Trafford since Thibaut Courtois in December 2015, while he was the first to do so in his first such game at the ground for the Blues since Kevin Hitchcock in December 1994.
Despite playing just half of Chelsea’s six Premier League games this season, Ben Chilwell has created more chances than any other player for the Blues in the league this season (9).
At 33 years and 253 days, Edinson Cavani became Manchester United’s oldest Premier League debutant since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in August 2016 (34y 316d).
‘It’s about kicking on after a poor start’ – what they said
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on BBC Match of the Day: “It was an even game. After a slow start, we grew into the game and played some decent stuff.
“We missed the crowd behind the goal there to suck the ball into the goal, which happens so many times at this place.
“There were good players at the other end of the pitch. Their keeper made some fantastic saves.
“The quality in the defending was very good. I’ve said all the time we have a squad full of good players and good characters but now it’s about kicking on after a poor start.”
On debutant Edinson Cavani: “He gives us something different to what we have of course. We now have a centre-forward who is different to the ones we already had.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard on BBC Match of the Day: “It’s a tight start to the season and I think this is just a continuation of that. It was in the final third where we lacked today but the clean sheet was a big plus for us.
“Sometimes we want to be flexible. We looked at Manchester United and we had games last season where we were the better team but lost to them on the counter-attack.”
On whether Cesar Azpilicueta should have been awarded a penalty, “Yeah, holding is allowed, but headlocks don’t go on. I don’t know why VAR didn’t take long and there’s also a monitor to look at. I think if the referee goes to the monitor he gives a penalty.”
Manchester United are next in action on Wednesday, 28 October, when they entertain RB Leipzig in the Champions League (20:00 GMT) and then host Arsenal in the Premier League on 1 November (16:30).
Chelsea travel to Russia to play FK Krasnodar in the Champions League on Wednesday (17:55). They visit Burnley in the Premier League on 31 October (15:00).
Balogun to critics: You can’t criticise me for not trying
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has defended his commitment to the Nigeria national side after recent criticisms directed at him over his performances.
The Rangers Glasgow’s defender has come under scathing criticisms following the country’s defeat to Central African Republic during their 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos last Thursday.
The centre-back was held responsible for the late goal conceded against the minnows following a mix-up with his defensive partner William Troost-Ekong, allowing CAR forward Karl Namnganda through on goal before slotting past Francis Uzoho, in goal for the Eagles.
However, the 33-year-old redeemed himself by scoring against CAR in the second game of the double-header clash in Douala, Cameroon – his first strike for Nigeria since he made his debut in 2014.
In an interview with ESPN, the centre-back said he had always given 100 per cent for Nigeria.
You’ve seen me play for a few years now. And you know that when I step onto the pitch I always give 100 per cent and I am always passionate,” Balogun said.
“Whether I am having a good performance or a bad performance, you can never actually criticise me for not trying. That is what I always give, that is the least I can do.”
2022 WCQ: Super Eagles Beat CAR In Douala To Maintain Group C Lead
Nigeria’ Super Eagles defeated their Central African Republic counterparts 2-0 in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifier decided at the Stade Japoma de Douala in Cameroon.
First half goals from Leon Balogun and Victor Osimhen ensure that the three-times African champions picked maximum three points away after losing at home to CAR in the first leg match last Thursday in Lagos.
The result sees the Super Eagles five points ahead of CAR and Cape Verde, while Liberia are bottom of the log with just the three points after three matchdays.
Lagos SWAN berates Iheanacho over unruly behaviour
The Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos Chapter, on Saturday berated Super Eagles’ striker, Kelechi Iheanacho over his disrespect to a journalist, Yinka Oyedele of Brila FM, during an encounter in Lagos.
Iheanacho’s attitude, according to a statement by Lagos SWAN’s Chairman, Debo Oshundun, was unsportsmanlike.
“The attention of SWAN Lagos Chapter has been drawn to Super Eagles’ striker Kelechi Iheanacho’s disrespect to one of our members, Yinka Oyedele of Brila FM.
“Oyedele, according to our findings, was arrogantly shoved off by the Leicester City forward while the reporter was making an attempt to interview him after the team’s training on Tuesday.
“Lagos SWAN frowns at this embarrassing act and disrespect to a journalist.
“Oyedele, a professional in the practice, doesn’t deserve such ill treatment from Iheanacho or any national team player,” he said.
Oshundun added “We urge the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to as a matter of urgency call the player to order.
“It is also not out place for the football house to educate the players on etIquette and relationship with the men of the fourth estate of the realm and fans alike.
“Such measures if put in place would prevent future occurrence.
“The Super Eagles take a prime place in every Nigerian journalists’ hearts and treatment such as this can only discourage reporters from doing more and giving their best for the course of our darling national team.
“We wish the senior national team and Iheanacho the best of luck in their reverse 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture against Central Africa Republic on Sunday,” he said. (NAN)
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