MANCHESTER (Sporting Alert) — Robin van Persie blasted home from close range to salvage a point for Manchester United against the league leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday.
After both teams battled out a goalless first half, Chelsea took the lead in the 53rd minute when Didier Drogba out-foxed Rafeal to head over goalkeeper David De Gea from a corner kick.
However, Manchester United grabbed a late-late equalizer when Van Persie fired home from eight-yards, four minutes into added time, after Marouane Fellaini’s powerful header was pushed into the path of the Man United forward by Chelsea’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
“We kept together and I think we deserved it (the point earned),” Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said. “I have seen that we could have beat Chelsea, I’m saying that nearly every game but this is against Chelsea who are a top team and we were at least equal.
“The most pleasing thing is we are showing again we are believing in making a goal in spite of the result being bad. 1-0 behind it is fantastic the players are running until the 90th minute to equalise or win.”
Prior to the goal, Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a second booking, an incident that gave away the free-kick from which United scored.
“The second half was much better. From the start of the first half we showed we wanted to win,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said.
“In the second half we didn’t give them chances they wanted. To come here to Old Trafford the way we did – it was fantastic to my boys.”
Mourinho was happy with the way his team played, but was disappointed with some of the decision made by referee Phil Dowd.
“The red card, I was seeing it coming,” Mourinho told BBC’s Match of the Day.
“If I have to speak about the second yellow [for Ivanovic] I have to speak about lots of things – the penalty that Ivanovic should have been given [under the challenge of Chris Smalling], the accumulation of yellow cards, the throw-ins.
“I know I speak always with my heart and get in trouble.”
Chelsea (23pts) dropped two points on the day, but stayed four points clear of second place Southampton, while Manchester United remained eighth with 13pts.
Van Gaal told his team that he was happy with display, but the Dutchman added that he was still disappointed with the final score as he believed the home side could have won the game, given all the chances they had in the game.
“I’ve said to the players we could have won but nevertheless we didn’t and that’s our fault,” the Red Devils’ boss said. “When you can do that against the best team in this league at this moment it is a good sign.
“I’m not pleased as I still have the feeling we could have won today and that we don’t take our opportunities at the moment.
“They scored in the second half then we have to fight again until the last minute. I am grateful for the support of the fans as they also admire the spirit in this team.”