A day of reprieves, as Manchester United now look to a proper restart. That may mean Chelsea will see this 1-1 draw as a wasted opportunity against a team very much between managers, especially given the nature of Antonio Rudiger’s late miss. It even put the luckless Timo Werner’s chances into perspective, and that’s kind of the thing for Chelsea. It could have been much worse.
The Italian midfielder nevertheless more than stepped up, overcoming both that and two recent misses to make it 1-1, and keep Chelsea on top of the Premier League on their own. They are still a point ahead of Manchester City.
United move back up to eighth, ahead of Brighton and Hove Albion, but are at least on surer footing again.
Ralph Rangnick will take over a team with that bit more confidence about them, as well as a bit of defiance. He couldn’t attend this match due to the wait for his work permit, and it did lead to a lot of intrigue over who picked the team.
Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench, but United as a whole started amassed around their own box.
This wasn’t a modern high press but an old-fashioned low block, as Michael Carrick’s team – for now – just set up to frustrate it. It made the first half a highly tedious affair. The only spark was when Rudiger hit the bar from distance, but it could possibly be argued that all of this lulled Chelsea into a false sense of security.
With United having barely had an attack in the first half, other than one wayward Bruno Fernandes long-range shot, Thomas Tuchel’s side enjoyed such a concerted spell of pressure they were content to leave one man back for a series of corners.
It proved calamitous.
On 50 minutes, Fernandes whacked a ball clear that Jorginho went to collect in the centre circle. The midfielder completely miscontrolled, though, allowing Sancho to suddenly race clear.
The amount of space he had was almost comical.
The finish wasn’t. Sancho took it superbly. It was a great moment for the young forward, who is finally finding his form.
The entire goal was reminiscent of more infamous moments, both involving Demba Ba. It was like his goals against Liverpool for Chelsea, and for Istanbul Basaksehir against United.
Despite that, Tuchel’s side remained completely committed to the same approach.
An initially poor game became a very lively exchange of Chelsea corner and blistering United counter.
There were another two moments when Marcus Rashford almost got in.
As if to add to their ominous threat, that was precisely when Carrick chose to bring on Ronaldo. It was surprisingly for Sancho, who appeared to be carrying a knock as he hobbled to the bench.
Chelsea weren’t cowed, though, and neither was their fulcrum midfielder.
They continued to keep up intense pressure, with Timo Werner continuing to offer new ways of missing chances. It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for him, especially given his sheer will to engage.
For one moment in the second half, though, the ball seemed to fall perfectly just yards from goal… only for Werner to make a series of wrong decisions. He went for the wrong foot and the wrong type of finish, the ball finishing up yards from goal.
The irony was that he actually caught it well. The true significance, however, was that Chelsea were continuing to create chaos in the United box.
That was the only explanation for what happened next.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka tried to whack a ball clear in the manner that had become something of an attacking outlet for United, only to totally take Thiago Silva with him. The centre-half was left in a heap on the ground, and Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
Jorginho was put on the spot.
He’d been responsible for Sancho’s goal, and missed his last two penalties, one of them going some way to costing Italy an automatic place in the World Cup.
It was a big moment, in the game, and for the midfielder.
Jorginho didn’t shirk it. He again took one of his little steps, and again scored.
It was much better for the midfielder, given it could have been much worse for Chelsea.
United will meanwhile feel that bit more sure of themselves – even if they are, rather evidently, not yet a Rangnick team.