Robin van Persie admitted his late equaliser against Chelsea had felt like a winner.
United looked set to lose to Didier Drogba’s header – deflected in off Van Persie – until the striker rammed in following Marouane Fellaini’s saved header, earning a 1-1 draw. The goal sparked jubilant scenes at Old Trafford and Van Persie said: “In the 93rd minute, 1-0 down at home, it feels so much better as you can see. Overall we had more chances than them, although it’s a fair result.
“I have mixed feelings. I had two early chances when (Thibaut Courtois) made a good save with a blocked shot, and in the second half as well late in the game.
“I always kept thinking positive, going for the next chance and it fell to my feet.”
Fellaini’s header came when he was not marked by Branislav Ivanovic – the Chelsea defender who was sent off seconds before.
“Is that so? It makes it even better for us,” Van Persie added. “If you come back in a game like this, the fact is we were 1-0 down and it gives us a boost.
“If you look at the table we should have won, wanted to win to get the points, but we can be happy with a draw.”
Asked if United can catch Chelsea, who remain the league leaders, he added: “Of course we can, there’s a long way to go, nine, 10 games played and it’s not even halfway.
“In my opinion we are better every day. In training and if you look at games you can see we are comfy on the ball and we are playing better.
“Now we have to stretch games longer. We extended that into the hour and we try to aim to play like that for an hour and a half.”
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was at pains to say he was happy with the outcome, despite the late drama.
“Very happy,” he said. “Very happy. My team played a fantastic game, it’s not easy to play here against Manchester United, a Manchester United that tried to play very compact and hit us on the counter attack.
“We were fantastic, especially in the second half. It was a top-class performance, good control, we could score a couple more goals.”
On Drogba’s goal he said: “He has scored so much. He scored a beautiful goal, he could have scored in the first half.
“I am so happy with his performance, my team is good and it’s very difficult to speak about (individual) players.”
The Portuguese also refused to get involved with discussing Ivanovic’s dismissal for two yellow cards.
“I prefer not to speak about the second yellow card,” he said. “If I do I have to start in the first half and go through many things that happened in the game. (A claim) the penalty on Ivanovic, the accumulation of cards, the fouls not given.
“I think Chelsea was fantastic, even with the circumstances, even more credit to the players. The result is not the one we wanted, we came to win but the performance is fantastic. The result, not so, but acceptable.”
United celebrated like they had won, and manager Louis van Gaal said: “It is the same song.
“We created a lot of chances, we don’t finish these chances and then Chelsea make the first goal.
“Much more difficult, Chelsea is playing on ball possession, make the pitch big and we have to run and run but after the 10 minutes after the goal
“I think we got together again and I think we deserved the last goal.
“But I have seen we could have won, also against Chelsea. I am saying that nearly every game, but that is a good sign I think because Chelsea is top level and we were at least equal.”
Drogba was marked by Rafael for his goal, a man somewhat shorter than him. “It was a mix of communications between Fellaini and Rafael and they came at that moment,” he added. “I think we are showing again that we are believing until the end in a goal, making a goal in spite of the result, (which we did) also against West Brom.
“We were 2-1 behind and today also 1-0 behind. It’s fantastic and the players are running to the 90th minute,” added Van Gaal.
Many had questioned whether, at 36-years-old, Drogba could fill the huge gap left by the absent Diego Costa, but he had no trouble heading home Cesc Fabregas’ corner in the 53rd minute.
But the striker’s job was made so much easier by the fact that 5ft 7in defender Rafael was the man marking him.
United did not look like getting back into the match. Van Persie and Juan Mata – among others – had wasted good chances to score.
And Chelsea looked perfectly organised at the back. But, Van Persie somehow managed to snatch a point for his boss deep into what the home fans used to call Fergie time.
There had looked to be no way back for United, but Dowd showed Ivanovic a second yellow for a foul on Di Maria in the corner in the final minute of added time.
The Argentinian, who became the Premier League’s record signing after making the switch from Real Madrid in the summer, found Fellaini with his cross but the ever-impressive Courtois saved instinctively.
The ball, however, dropped at the feet of Van Persie, who drove home from close range to send Old Trafford into ecstasy.