Despite the inevitable hype, Chelsea and Manchester United produced a rather drab stalemate in the Premier League’s most high-profile game of the weekend.
The two teams slugged their way to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge that produced little beyond a light sprinkling of VAR controversy in the first 20 minutes.
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The Blues extended their unbeaten run under new coach Thomas Tuchel to nine matches, courtesy of a fourth clean sheet kept since the German’s arrival in late January. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also upheld his unbeaten managerial record against Chelsea in the Premier League having registered two wins and three draws in five games against the London side.
Unfortunately there weren’t many more positives to glean from Sunday’s clash, which once again saw a grand “Big Six” battle fail to deliver much in the way of memorable entertainment.
Indeed, the Premier League’s so-called Big Six of (in alphabetical order) Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have produced quite a number of forgettable bore-fests so far this season, with well-drilled teams laden with world-class talent successfully nullifying each another again and again.
Six of the biggest games in the Premier League this season:
Man United 0-0 Chelsea
Arsenal 0-0 Man United
Liverpool 0-0 Man United
Man United 0-0 Man City
Chelsea 0-0 Spurs
Chelsea 0-0 Man United pic.twitter.com/s1qbB3Hqzk
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 28, 2021
United have been involved in a lot of those dreary results, with Solskjaer’s side now winless in their last eight Premier League outings against their fellow Big Six rivals — the last four of which have ended in 0-0 draws.
Their last victory against a Big Six team came in March of 2020 when they beat Manchester City 2-0 at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay, who both profited from a pair of rare howlers by City goalkeeper Ederson.
Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ mini-league
ClubPWDLGDPts1. Man City8521+12172. Liverpool7421+4143. Tottenham8314+2104. Arsenal7214-375. Chelsea7133-566. Man United7052-65
United have only scored one goal against Big Six opponents this season, which is fewer than all 19 other teams in the Premier League. Their barren streak leaves United rock bottom of the Big Six head-to-head mini-league so far in 2020-21, with each team having played at least seven of their 10 league encounters against the others.
It’s important to note, of course, that these standings are somewhat at odds with United’s position of second in the table overall, representing a season of real progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Premier League’s 2015-16 champions Leicester City and this year’s high-flyers West Ham United may also have something to say about the definition of “Big Six,” with the two sides occupying third and fourth place respectively in the table ahead of the midweek round of fixtures.
United’s poor results against the rest of the Big Six are perhaps best encapsulated by the struggles that their creative fulcrum, Bruno Fernandes, endures during these big games. The Portuguese maestro has proved a tremendous boon to United since his arrival at Old Trafford, pitching in with 34 goals and 21 assists in 61 appearances in all competitions since making his United debut on Feb. 1 last year.
However, Fernandes’ record against the Premier League Big Six in that time is notably different, with the midfielder offering just one goal and zero assists in seven appearances.
Indeed, that solitary goal came just 98 seconds into his first Big Six clash of the 2020-21 campaign when he scored from the penalty spot against Tottenham back in October of last year.
Perhaps the Big Six have all put their heads together and realised that if you can stop Bruno, you can successfully subdue United too.