ALVARO MORATA gave Manchester United a taste of what could have been by heading Antonio Conte's Chelsea to a much-needed victory as Jose Mourinho endured another frustrating Stamford Bridge return.
All eyes were on the touchline as the combustible managers faced off, with Manchester City's latest win leaving United eight points off the summit as pressure mounted on Conte just months after leading the Blues to the title.
The Italian twice got the better of Mourinho at Stamford Bridge last season and made it a hat-trick in a tense encounter on Sunday, with Morata's fine header giving Chelsea a deserved 1-0 win against second-placed United.
It looked like the Spain international would instead be wearing red until Mourinho completed a summer move for Romelu Lukaku, whose goalless streak stretched to a seventh match as the Chelsea striker brought his scoreless run to a timely halt.
Having seen an early Phil Jones own goal ruled out because of his foul, Morata capitalised on lacklustre United defending to superbly head home Cesar Azpilicueta's cross in the 55th minute.
It was no less than Chelsea deserved as they pressed the issue against an increasingly ramshackle United, although Marcus
Rashford and Marouane Fellaini went close to snatching a fortuitous point as the clock wound down.
Chelsea boss Conte was happy to bag the three points and said: “It’s an important victory. When you play against Manchester United it’s always a massive game.
“We know very well this team is very strong. This type of win is important for our confidence. We showed great desire and passion to win this kind of game.
“We can win or lose but our spirit must be this. Last season our spirit was in every game – we started this season with a lot of problems. We were up and down. This game showed if we want we can."
Opposite number Mourinho left The Bridge knowing his team are now eight points behind title favourites and arch rivals, Manchester City.
“We are second - not fifth, sixth or seventh or eight,” said Mourinho. “We have several teams in a more difficult position than we have. Eight points is eight points.
"We went through a very difficult phase with important matches against Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea without important players.
“The game was controlled by us and the game was controlled by them. We had chances and they had chances and with the first goal they were able to bring more people to defend. We tried to change the direction of our game, we created chances to equalise but we couldn't.
"We had chances. If I remember Lukaku shot in the first half and in the last part of the game with Rashford shot and Courtois without a chance with the cross to the far post to Fellaini. We had lots of chances to score goals."
See full story in the Leader