United and Chelsea both lost defenders to injury, Rudiger trudging off in the 65th minute with a serious looking knee problem before Eric Bailly followed suit after a collision with Mateo Kovacic, with Solskjaer suggesting that was the Ivorian’s season over. But Rojo was lucky his afternoon was not cut short for other reasons. Bailly’s replacement had only been on the pitch seven minutes when, seconds after careering through Gonzalo Higuain, the United defender planted the full force of his raised right boot into Willian’s ankle and somehow escaped with a booking. Maurizio Sarri called it an “orange” but the Chelsea manager might want to take another look. Tackles like that break ankles. Nemanja Matic catching Cesar Azpilicueta in the face with a stray arm in the first half appeared accidental but Rojo’s challenge looked nothing of the sort.
If De Gea wants a pay rise, this is a funny way of going about it. His blunder was not quite as bad as the one he chucked in against Lionel Messi in the Champions League but it was worse than the errors for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leroy Sane’s goals against Everton and Manchester City respectively over the last week. There was little on when Rudiger picked up the ball 40 yards out so he drifted forward and decided he might as well have a crack. De Gea should have caught the ball. He didn’t, spilled it to Alonso, who tucked the ball home off the inside of the far post. United never recovered.
Behind to Juan Mata’s early goal, Chelsea drew level shortly before half-time after De Gea again came bearing gifts, spilling a speculative 30 yard shot from Antonio Rudiger that Marcos Alonso gobbled up on the rebound.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offered another staunch defence of De Gea after this latest nightmare but, even if the manager does start to consider dropping his No. 1 for United’s final two matches, the reality is that it will probably be too little, too late. The damage to their top four hopes has already been done. While two routes to Champions League qualification remain very much alive for Chelsea after an afternoon of low rent football that reaffirmed just how far these two clubs have fallen, the door has all but closed for United as Solskjaer faces up, in all likelihood, to taxing Thursday nights in the Europa League.