Chelsea prove strong for ‘Spirited’ United

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Manchester United put on an improved display for beleaguered boss Louis van Gaal, but failed to find a way past Chelsea at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman recalled captain Wayne Rooney in place of Memphis Depay after the striker had been dropped to the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Stoke City, while experienced German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was back from suspension and full-back Matteo Darmian also returned after a recent hamstring injury.

As for the visitors, interim coach Guus Hiddink was able to call upon playmaker Eden Hazard after a hip problem, with the Belgium international playing as a ‘false’ No 9 in the absence of suspended striker Diego Costa.

Both teams spurned a number of presentable chances, with the hosts striking the woodwork on two occasions in the first period and United goalkeeper David de Gea made several impressive stops at the other end.

However, a goalless draw left United in sixth place – five points behind Manchester City in the fourth and final Champions League spot, albeit having played a game more than their rivals – while Chelsea move up to 14th in the table.

Van Gaal had hinted at quitting after a wretched slump in form, but although his side have now gone eight games without victory in all competitions, they at least avoided sinking to five straight defeats for the first time since December 1936.