We all know Manchester United’s recent record at Stamford Bridge is catastrophically bad.
In the last 15 years, the Red Devils have won once at the ground in the league, against nine men, while the other triumph in all competitions came in the 2011 UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
With Jose Mourinho back at his old club, against the Italian adversary in Antonio Conte, most United fans expected that this would be their side’s sternest test of the season.
Marouane Fellaini returned to the squad, albeit the bench, but the Belgian’s comeback could not disguise the absence of Paul Pogba, with United’s lack of creativity evident throughout the match.
In a 3-5-2 formation they attempted to drive through the Chelsea midfield, but as attacks stagnated space emerged in-front of their own defence.
So, unpredictably one man became pivotal in keeping Chelsea out. De Gea.
The Spaniard knew that this was probably United’s second toughest match of the season, behind Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, so constant concentration was paramount throughout the 90 minutes.
By two minutes he had already been forced into his first save of the match, diving to the left to catch a low 25-yard drive from N’Golo Kante.
After United had managed to stem waves of Chelsea pressure, it was no surprise to see De Gea make yet another remarkable save in the face adversity, palming away Eden Hazard’s crisp left-foot effort in the 36th minute.
It was a testament to De Gea’s goalkeeping ability, who five years ago may not have made the save, given the Spaniard saw the ball whizz towards him at the last minute.
As the match passed on one stat caught the eye. By half-time, De Gea had completed more passes than Romelu Lukaku.
Chelsea had bullied their opponents and on 54 minutes took a deserved lead through a precise Alvaro Morata header, leaving the Spanish goalkeeper helpless in goal.
Even after the goal, De Gea’s concentration needed to be laser-eyed, when he had to react sharply to Hazard’s well-manufactured chance six yards out late on.
So far this season the United maestro has kept eight clean sheets, two more than any other keeper in the league.
At Stamford Bridge, the idea of getting nine flew out of the window due to United’s slack defensive positioning, and not the goalkeeping ability of De Gea.