Courtois and De Gea Prove Their Brilliance in Draw

De Gea makes save in Chelsea-United

Any almost any other Premier League season, a post-Boxing Day matchup between Manchester United and Chelsea would’ve had title implications and attracted fans from across the globe. This year, however, these two perennial powerhouses are in the midst of some of their worst runs of forms in their respective histories. A victory Monday night could spur a much needed momentum boost going into the second half of the season, but could either of these beleaguered clubs grab all three points?

The opening stages of the game saw the two sides come out guns blazing and both goalies were on the ends of some close calls. Former Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata nearly got United off to a dream start within the first two minutes of the match, but his drive from the edge of the penalty area cannoned off the woodwork. Just minutes later, Chesea’s captain John Terry came within inches of putting the visitors ahead. Terry found himself unmarked in the penalty area on a corner kick, and his header forced David De Gea into a miraculous reflex save to keep things level. For both sets of fans, this was the most promising start to a match they’ve had for quite some time and the stage seemed to be set for a Premier League classic.

United starlet Anthony Martial provided the match’s next best chance on the quarter hour mark. The French striker dribbled past Branislav Ivanovic on the left wing, but his low effort hit the inside of the near post and rolled harmlessly across the goal line. Despite the positive play from the Red Devils, the score line remained deadlocked going into the second half. For a fanbase craving free-flowing, attacking play, it seemed that Van Gaal had finally loosened the reigns and let his players exercise their creativity in the final third.

Chelsea were the side on the front foot at the start of the second 45 minutes as Pedro and Cesar Azpilicueta were both denied by De Gea in the 48th minute. The Spanish keeper made a diving save to palm away Pedro’s initial effort and quickly recovered to knock Azpilicueta’s follow up shot out of play. Ander Herrera thought he had put United ahead in the 56th minute after he got on the end of an Anthony Martial cross, but Thibault Courtois made a miraculous point blank save to maintain his clean sheet.

Nemanja Matic had Chelsea’s best chance of the half five minutes later when Pedro sprung him through one-on-one with De Gea. With only the keeper to beat, Matic lined up his shot and promptly sailed his effort into the Old Trafford stands. Wayne Rooney could’ve played hero in this pivotal match, but his volley in the 86th minute resembled Matic’s earlier effort as it sailed into the Stretford End. Courtois and De Gea proved to be the pivotal men in this match as the sides remained scoreless as the final whistle blew.

The shared points do little to change either of these club’s positions in the table. United, while ending their four-game losing streak, still sit in sixth and have now gone all of December without a victory. Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea, on the other hand, have bumped up one spot to 14th in the table but are still winless under their interim manager. As the disappointing results continue under Louis Van Gaal, some have speculated that this could be the Dutchman’s last match in charge of the Red Devils. Afterwards, however, Van Gaal claimed that the draw against Chelsea clearly showed that players had confidence in him and that there was no need to resign. Will the board feel the same way?

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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