By Alessandro Schiavone at Old Trafford.
Marco Alonso’s goal looked to have set dominant Chelsea on their way to three points at Old Trafford tonight, but the Blues were denied victory and had to settle for a 1-1 draw after Cristiano Ronaldo equalised.
Thomas Tuchel must have been impressed by the degree of intoxicating attacking football his men had in store.
But at the same time he must be furious to concede at the first time of asking and seeing Kai Havertz miss a hatful of chances.
In the end Chelsea have to accept the 1-1 draw, just like in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge.
But this time the result will feel like a battering, such was the quality of their five-star performance and attacking flair.
And the Chelsea players will be kicking themselves for failing to convert a string of opportunities before half-time.
The Blues, who had won their last eight games on the road, were the superior side from start to finish.
But Kai Havertz couldn’t make the most of three clear-cut chances to give Chelsea the lead.
One point will feel like a win for the outplayed Red Devils, whose hopes of sneaking into the top-four are surely over.
Romelu Lukaku, booed by a small section of the home supporters, had a 19-minute-cameo but again looked off the pace.
Five minutes into the game, the outstanding Reece James unleashed a thunderous effort from the edge of the box but David Gea punched it away without taking any chances.
Minutes later, Bruno Fernandes, picked out by Alex Telles, sent a soft header straight into the hands of Edouard Mendy.
On 18 minutes, N’Golo Kante fired a shot straight into the arms of De Gea. Either side of the Spanish goalkeeper and it would have been the opener.
If it had been a continental final, Havertz would surely hae had a first-half hat-trick. But it wasn’t and he missed three great chances to put Chelsea in front.
And Kante must have felt aggrieved by the fact that the ex-Bayer 04 Leverkusen ace ‘denied’ two assists.
Havertz first hit the side-netting on 26 minutes after being rolled in on goal by the French World Cup winner.
And less than two minutes later, after a quick counter-attacking move, again slipped through by Kante who excelled in his role of playmaker, smashed a close ranger straight at David De Gea.
The Chelsea players were feasting their fans’ eyes with some exciting football.
They countered with pace and confidence, pushed Man United back but the conviction in front of De Gea was simply not there.
On 35 minutes, Havertz missed another chance, this time planting a header straight at the ex-Atletico Madrid keeper from James’ cross.
Eight minutes into the second period, Chelsea came close again but Havertz’s fellow German Timo Werner couldn’t get on the end of a good ball in from Mason Mount.
But Tuchel didn’t have to wait long to celebrate as Alonso struck a beautiful left-footed volley into the back of the net after an inadvertent flick-on from Havertz following the outstanding James’ cross.
There was nothing De Gea could have done to keep that one out. And after 60 minutes of dominance, Chelsea finally had the goal their terrific performance deserved.
But it only lasted two minutes as the until-then invisible Ronaldo netted after a neat chipped through ball from Nemanja Matic.
Both sides had chances to win the game.
Ronaldo drew a good save from Mendy before James struck the outside of the post after superbly opening his body up following a Mount cutback.
There are going to be many changes for either side, on and off the pitch with several key players departing.
But tonight Tuchel will have more regrets than Ralf Rangnick about the result as Havertz can do much worse than watching Ronaldo videos on YouTube.