Date: 30th December 2005 at 1:30pm
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Solskjaer’s return was the one bright spot from an otherwise miserable trip to the midlands for United.

Having beaten Birmingham comfortably in the Carling Cup only eight days previously, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were confidently expected to snaffle another three points in their quest to catch Chelsea.

With a New Year’s Eve visit from a Bolton side fully refreshed after having their clash with Middlesbrough postponed last night to be followed by a key clash with Arsenal at Highbury on January 3, Ferguson felt confident enough to leave out Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-sung from a side already lacking defensive duo Wes Brown and Mikael Silvestre.

Despite leading twice through Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney, who were netting for the 17th and 11th times respectively this term, the Red Devils were unable to hold on to their advantage and Walter Pandiani delivered a crushing blow with his late leveller.

Incredibly, although United have picked up 23 points from their last nine games, beating Chelsea along the way, they have just fallen further behind Jose Mourinho’s men.

The Red Devils now trail Chelsea by 11 points.

Given the Londoners have dropped points only twice this term – and crucially have already played all seven sides immediately below them away from home with the single exception of Bolton – the chances of Ferguson’s side reclaiming their crown are virtually non-existent.

Van Nistelrooy: ‘The gap is there. Chelsea won again in the last minute. That is what they do. They keep clean sheets, score a goal and win their game.

‘This is a disappointing result for us because we had the lead twice and should have done the job.

‘At 2-1, we were in complete control and looking to get the third.

‘But there is no time to dwell on it. There is another game waiting against Bolton on Saturday, which is a massive one for us.

‘We must forget what has happened, come out and make sure we show everyone what we are made of.’