It was, in essence, a game between two sides in mid-table. Chelsea started Monday 11th in the Premier League in terms of points accrued at home, with Man United 12th and below Crystal Palace and Burnley away. Both teams had won one of their last five matches and neither was in a state of collective satisfaction with either their manager or squad.
For one team, that remains the case. But for the other, despite the gap of three points to their vanquished opponents, there is a sense of contentment. Man United are the first side to win away at both the Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge in the same league season as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in October and November 2015.
That is entirely coincidental; the sort of metamorphosis Anfield has witnessed remains a fantasy for United. But they have to start somewhere, and while United are still behind the Blues, they do feel somewhat closer to that holy grail in the enervating distance.