Antonio Conte’s men went into the clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 12 points behind Pep Guardiola’s outfit, who had earlier beaten Arsenal 3-1. To stand any chance of regaining their crown, therefore, they simply had to win.
Against a United team that was deployed in a typically circumspect manner by Jose Mourinho, they were able to get the job done thanks to a solitary goal from Alvaro Morata early in the second half.
The visiting boss might have argued that “the team that scored first would probably win”, but the likelihood was that was always going to be Chelsea.
While the home side managed a commendable 14 efforts on goal, the visitors achieved only five and of these only a couple were on target. Indeed, throughout the game, the Red Devils only got two shots away from inside the Chelsea box in comparison to 10 from their rivals.
Still, compared to the manner in which they played at Liverpool, where they successfully came away with a scoreless draw, they were positively dynamic. At Anfield they only managed three shots of any kind at goal.
Mourinho’s side might not have been swamped – they had 46 per cent of the ball and enjoyed nearly twice as many corners as their hosts – but there can be little doubt that they were far less effective than their opponents.
Indeed, while the former Real Madrid boss was happy to praise the defensive efforts of his side, he should not that they achieved an alarmingly low tackle per cent of just 38. A more typical statistic in this category is up around 67 per cent, which is exactly where Chelsea were.
The home team completed 471 passes over the course of the game, which is only marginally down on their season average of 502, indicating that the United defence did not do quite as robust a job as the manager might have been led to believe.
Certainly, there was more of an attacking flavour to the Old Trafford side in this game than in others against top six clubs, yet it was largely focused down the left of the field, where recalled England international Ashley Young prowled. For all of their endeavours, though, they were unable to make a telling impression.
Statistically and on the field, Chelsea got the better of this game, so while Mourinho might not like it, the Blues remain in the title hunt on an afternoon upon which they may have received a knock-out blow.