Manchester United were cruelly denied a deserved victory at Stamford Bridge as Ross Barkley netted an equaliser for Chelsea deep into injury time.
After a first-half header from Antonio Rudiger had the Blues in front, the Reds overturned the lead thanks to an Anthony Martial double and looked set to bag three points at the Bridge for the first time since October 2012. However, Barkley pounced to stab the ball home at the death, briefly sparking a melee between members of the coaching staff, to grab a point for the hosts.
Before the game, the Reds had spoken of a determination to build on the comeback victory over Newcastle United before the international break. One of the goalscorers from that win, Juan Mata, came into the line-up as one of two changes made by Jose Mourinho with Victor Lindelof also starting; Scott McTominay and Eric Bailly were the replaced players.
Mata took up a no.10 position in support of Romelu Lukaku and the Spaniard started brightly with some neat touches and exchanges in attack. After a largely even opening 10 minutes it was Chelsea who had the first sight of goal after Nemanja Matic had tripped Eden Hazard on the edge of the box. Thankfully Willian blasted the resulting set-piece well over the crossbar.
Six minutes later and there was a half-chance for the Reds as Luke Shaw’s left-wing cross dropped onto the head of Lukaku, but the United striker was unable to direct his effort on target.
Unfortunately it was Chelsea who found the target soon after when Rudiger put the hosts in front. After Hazard had won a corner, Willian sent the ball into the box and found the unmarked Blues defender who had the freedom to power home a header.
It was a disappointing moment for the Reds, who had looked comfortable up to that point. The goal led to a prolonged spell of Chelsea possession, although De Gea still largely remained as a spectator with no clear-cut chances for either side as the half drew to a close.
The second half began with a decent chance for Alvaro Morata who was slipped through by Mateo Kovacic. Morata hit a low shot on the turn, but his international team-mate De Gea was more than equal to it. De Gea then claimed another effort from Hazard after he created an opening from the left wing.
Some superb play in a tight spot on the left touchline from Lukaku and Pogba opened up play on 55 minutes and eventually led to Mata having an effort saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, but the Reds kept the attack alive with Young firing the ball back in before it fell into the path of Anthony Martial, via a deflection off Jorginho, and the Frenchman smashed it home with aplomb.
United’s tails were up thereafter but it was Chelsea who fashioned the next real chance when Willian’s free-kick was headed narrowly wide by David Luiz. De Gea then pulled off a superb stop from N’Golo Kante, but it was United who looked more in control of proceedings, with Pogba pulling the strings and Mata a constant outlet in the no.10 role.
It was the Spaniard’s sublime play down the right which led to United taking the lead on 73 minutes. Mata brilliantly skipped clear of Luiz before knocking the ball inside to Rashford. He in turn found Martial, who cut inside before whipping a quite brilliant right-footed shot into the bottom corner.
United substitute Ander Herrera almost made it 3-1 when he latched onto a loose ball soon after, but the Chelsea keeper came out to thwart him.
Six minutes of injury time made it a nervy end to the match and it was a sucker punch for the Reds when Barkley poked home after Luiz’s effort had bounced off a post and De Gea had brilliantly saved from Rudiger. Still, United will take much confidence and belief from another excellent second-half display with Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus team-mates to come next on the fixture list, on Tuesday at Old Trafford.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 59); Willian, Hazard, Morata (Giroud 79).
Subs not used: Caballero, Zappacosta, Cahill, Fabregas.
Booked: Rudiger, Hazard
United: De Gea; Young (c), Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Mata (Herrera 75), Matic, Pogba; Rashford (Alexis 85), Lukaku, Martial (A. Pereira 83).
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Darmian, Fred.
Booked: Matic, Young, Mata