Cristiano Ronaldo secured absentee-hit Manchester United a scarcely-deserved Premier League draw against Chelsea as Old Trafford witnessed more protests against the Glazer family.
With Champions League qualification all but beyond them following defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal, interim boss Ralf Rangnick’s side escaped with a point on a night dominated for the most part by Thomas Tuchel’s Blues.
Marcos Alonso’s volley was the only goal wasteful Chelsea managed against United’s porous defence and that was cancelled out two minutes later as star man Ronaldo struck to seal a 1-1 draw.
The build-up was dominated by news that Rangnick was considering taking over as Austria manager and protests against the Glazer family’s ownership at a second-straight home match.
‘Glazers out’ read a banner above the tunnel before kick-off at Old Trafford, where a mixture of David De Gea’s saves and poor-decision making meant Chelsea failed to turn their 11 shots into a deserved lead.
Tuchel’s men finally broke the deadlock when Alonso volleyed home in the 60th minute but it did not kick open the floodgates. Instead, former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic’s clipped ball put Ronaldo through to equalise.
Outstanding Reece James struck the post in the closing stages but United, without eight players on Thursday, somehow ended Chelsea’s club record run of eight-successive away wins in all competitions.
It was one-way traffic in the first half, with James stinging De Gea’s palms from 20 yards before slipping in Timo Werner to get away a low shot on goal.
United managed to avoid conceding inside the opening five minutes in a third-successive match, but the space Chelsea continued to find was alarming.
Kai Havertz directed the ball wide after stand-in United skipper Bruno Fernandes saw a tame header saved at the other end, with Ronaldo clobbering a hopeful overhead kick off target.
They were rare voyages forwards by United as Chelsea all too easily found space and created chances.
De Gea raged at his defence when N’Golo Kante got a shot on target as protesters entered the ground, having missed a minute for each of the Glazers’ 17 years in charge.
There were continued chants against United’s owners as the team struggled, with Havertz lashing an effort into the side-netting after Chelsea broke through the giants gaps left by the home side on a rapid counter.
Next it was De Gea denying the Germany international, who was played through by Kante but could not beat the outstretched goalkeeper. Tuchel looked furious on the touchline.
A wicked James cross just evaded fellow wing-back Alonso at the far post as the Chelsea onslaught continued, with De Gea denying Havertz as he stretched to reach a close-range header.
Somehow United managed to go into half-time with the match still scoreless.
Mason Mount dragged a chance wide 34 seconds into the second half as Chelsea continued to toy with the home side, who had Fernandes to thank for getting back and prevent Havertz putting Kante free.
Werner just failed to get a stud on a whipped Mount cross but United’s goal would finally be breached in the 60th minute.
James was given time to float over a cross from the right that Havertz flicked on for Alonso to hit a crashing volley at the far post.
But United are a peculiar side and have an unrelenting great leading the line.
Some sloppy possession allowed Matic to put Ronaldo behind with a clever pass, with the veteran lashing home a 62nd-minute equaliser in front of the Stretford End.
Matic and James tangled and De Gea shoved Mount as things became heated between two frustrated teams.
Boos greeted former United striker Romelu Lukaku’s introduction as he came on with Christian Pulisic in a bid to swing the match back Chelsea’s way.
James came agonisingly close to putting the visitors back ahead in the 80th minute, but his beautiful left-footed effort curled onto the post.
Victor Lindelof saw a stoppage-time header denied and the highlight of the closing stages the introduction of exciting 17-year-old talent Alejandro Garnacho for his United debut.