Despite a full weekend of Premier League fixtures, there was one game upon which everyone had their roving eye focused.
Stamford Bridge played host to an unbeaten home side and a bizarrely led and inconsistently performing visitor from Manchester. Chelsea appeared firm favourites and with United’s chances of European qualification seeming to wane, all the pressure was on Jose Mourinho’s men.
The season of Manchester United reads as a WWE script. A dysfunctional team; clunky and disjointed on the pitch, rumours of a player mutiny and the entire production choreographed by a pantomime villain ready to explode.
If anyone thought the clubs dramatic start to the season had reached its limit after eight rounds, how wrong they were. Any chance of the Red Devils going on an under the radar, clinical run of wins that repairs relationships and returns the manager to something near sanity, looks a pipe dream.
Mourinho was taunted, goaded, teased and eventually caught hook, line and sinker by the Chelsea fans. His state of mind wasn’t helped by a promising start from the Blues, who took the lead after 21 minutes from the head of Antonio Rudiger.
The home side looked polished and organised in attack but all credit to the visitors, who were able to shift the momentum of the match and employ a more physical game that negatively impacted Chelsea’s rhythm in midfield.
Eventually it paid dividends and goals to Anthony Martial in the 55th and 73rd minutes had United on the brink of an unlikely and unpredictable victory. Chelsea threw all they had at the visitors and in a rather primal goal mouth scramble, grabbed a 96th minute equaliser that sent the fans into rapture and Mourinho become their prime target.
The same could be said of the Chelsea bench, who let Mourinho well and truly know that his constant reminders of the three Premier League titles he nurtured at Stamford Bridge are not appreciated. After weeks of turmoil and much personal insult launched in his direction, Mourinho exploded in rage, furious that all three had slipped away.
He pointed and spat vitriol at his agitators, all the while, held back by staff. It was a dramatic end to an entertaining afternoon that saw Chelsea slip off the title setting pace of Manchester City and Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Erik Lamela found the net for Tottenham again to send West Ham to its sixth loss of the young season and Newcastle remained win less after a 1-0 loss to Brighton, in a match that loomed as crucial for both in terms of avoiding relegation later in the season.
Cardiff won at home after slotting four past Fulham and Manchester City continued its stellar form with Burnley on the end of a five goal pounding. Liverpool kept pace with City and Mohamed Salah found the net after a slow start to the season. Watford scored an excellent 2-0 away victory against Wolves.
Whilst some excellent football was played it was all about Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, with the disappointment of the late goal inciting another petulant and aggressive reaction from Mourinho.
The apology from the guilty Chelsea assistant, who appeared to come in close proximity to Mourinho, has been accepted and life goes on. Once again, the Portuguese spoke of respect in the post-game; feeling aggrieved at those who had made his afternoon somewhat uncomfortable, as well as questioning the injury time added by the referee.
It is hard to fathom how the WWE script writers top themselves from week to week when it comes to Manchester United, but they keep doing it.
It will all resume on Matchday 10, as the Red Devils host Everton. In a pure footballing sense; something that often appears secondary when Mourinho is involved, the match between Tottenham and Manchester City has more interest and sees another challenger with the chance to derail City’s charge.
The longer the season runs the less likely it appears that anyone can interrupt the undisputed champions of Manchester, whilst the red part of that City remains a volatile mystery.