Chelsea took the lead in the 36th minute after Jonny Evans bundled the ball into his own net, and the Blues looked very much in control five minutes into the second half when they raced ahead 3-0 thanks to a blistering strike from Juan Mata and a David Luiz header which deflected off Rio Ferdinand.
However, United were handed a lifeline when referee Howard Webb awarded two debatable penalties, which Wayne Rooney dispatched clinically on both occasions.
And six minutes from time, substitute Javier Hernandez rescued an unlikely point for Sir Alex Ferguson's men when he found space in the penalty area and nodded home an equaliser.
Here, ESPNSTAR.com takes a look at the movers and shakers from Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge.
Petr Cech - 7.5
Another strong display from the Czech international, who ensured Chelsea went into the break ahead with two smart saves just before halftime.
Was left horribly exposed by his defence in the second half though, and could do nothing for each of United's three goals.
Branislav Ivanovic - 8.5
Ivanovic may have conceded the penalty that led to United's second, but apart from that, it was a faultless showing from the Serb, who must be Chelsea's most consistent defender at the moment.
Doesn't seem bothered that he's regulary shifted around in defence, and absolutely nullified the threat of Ashley Young in the first half. Was always first to the loose ball, and didn't let a single cross get past him down Chelsea's right.
Gary Cahill - 7.5
The England international was very lucky to stay on the pitch after he appeared to clip Danny Welbeck's heels after just ten minutes. However, having been handed a reprieve by Webb, Cahill gradually settled and was near unbeatable in the air.
Looked very comfortable in the air and nearly scored a late winner when his rasping drive was tipped over by David de Gea. One game into his Chelsea career, Cahill already looks like he belongs at Stamford Bridge.
David Luiz - 6.5
Things were actually going pretty well for Luiz in this game - apart from a couple of misplaced passes, the Brazilian was proving tough to beat and regularly looked to put Chelsea on the front foot. He then ventured forward for a freekick five minutes into the second half, and netted his side's third with a stroke of luck, after the ball took a wicked deflection of Ferdinand.
Alas, the 24-year-old is still susceptible to the odd lapse in concentration, and that duly occured in the 84th minute when he allowed Hernandez to sneak in front him and nod home United's equaliser.
Jose Bosingwa - 6.5
Not the best game from the Portuguese, although to be fair he was playing out of position on the left.
If anything, Bosingwa was probably thankful Antonio Valencia had a relatively quiet game for United, as much of the pre-game talk was centred on how damaging United's pacy winger was going to be.
Michael Essien - 8
Following a prolonged spell on the sidelines, Essien finally made his first start of the season on Sunday but based on his performance, you would never have guessed.
The Ghana international hardly missed a beat, bullying opponents with his strength and was never afraid to get stuck in. His lack of match practice showed when he tired late on in the game but prior to that, Essien was the driving force that Chelsea have missed over the last twelve months.
Raul Meireles - 6
Off-colour display from Meireles, who wasted a number of chances to test the United back four with some awful deliveries from set pieces.
Florent Malouda - 5
Once regarded as one of the Blues' most lethal players, Malouda is now having to settle for a bit-part role and based on this most recent performance, it's not difficult to see why.
The Frenchman lacked any real drive and looked content to sit back and let his team-mates do all the work. Came to life late on but it's clear Malouda is no longer the player he once was.
Daniel Sturridge (off 70') - 8.5
Strange decision from Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas to take Sturridge off with 20 minutes to go, considering he had been their most dangerous player up till that point.
Prior to the game, we expected Sturridge to give Evra a good day's workout, and that proved to be the case in the 36th minute, when he glided past the Frenchman and played in a ball which was eventually bundled into the net by Evans.
Showed Evra a clean pair of heels again in the 50th minute, leaving the United left-back with no choice but to bring him down. From the resultant freekick, Luiz nodded home Chelsea's third.
Juan Mata - 9
A real contender for man-of-the-match, and definitely a frontrunner as Chelsea's player of the season. Mata was the most creative player on the park on Sunday, putting the ball into pockets of space few would even think of.
The Spain international put Chelsea 2-0 up in the 46th minute when he lashed home an unstoppable volley, making the difficult look very easy in the process, and then whipped in a good ball for Luiz to nod home a third.
Fernando Torres - 8
So the goals still don't want to come but as he has done in recent weeks, Torres is finally contributing to the Chelsea attack, and if he keeps up his performances, it's unlikely Villas-Boas will have many complaints.
Looked slightly desperate to get a goal in the first half and scuffed a couple of opportunities, but he displayed his quality just after the restart when he made his way down the right and played in the perfect cross for Mata to score.
Torres did however miss a glorious chance to score after he was played through on goal by an innocuous ball over the top. Instead of firing in a shot first time, he tried to dance past both Evans and Valencia, and was eventually crowded out.
Oriol Romeu (on 70') - 6
Was brought on with 20 minutes remaining to shore up the Chelsea midfield, but Romeu didn't exactly have much of an impact on the game.
David de Gea - 8
Horror start to the game from De Gea as he flapped at a couple of crosses, something we've grown accustomed to every time Ferguson names the Spaniard in his starting XI.
However, the young custodian excelled with the more difficult aspects of goalkeeping, and produced a string of top-drawer saves to deny Chelsea. If he can spends more time in the gym and starts becoming more decisive when coming out to deal with high balls, there's no reason why he can't go on to establish himself as Old Trafford's No. 1.
Rafael (off 63') - 6.5
Lively display from the Brazilian, who was never afraid to venture forward and give United an extra man in attack.
Still, left plenty to be desired with his defending, and his lack of awareness saw Mata steal in at the far post to smash home Chelsea's second.
Rio Ferdinand - 7
An excellent first half from the veteran centre-back, who was always on hand to stick out a leg every time a Chelsea player looked to play a killer pass.
However, he was the main culprit for Chelsea's third when he failed to pick up Luiz in the box. His last-ditch attempt to block the Brazilian's header only served to divert the ball into the back of his net.
Jonny Evans - 6.5
You have got to feel for the Ulsterman. Just when it seems as though he has managed to exorcise his demons with a series of error-free displays, Evans struck fear back into the heart of United supporters what eventually proved to be a costly own-goal.
And for once, it really was not his fault, but simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as De Gea stabbed Sturridge's cross onto his chest and into the back of the net. Things went downhill from there, and the old mistake-prone Evans reared his ugly head once again.
Patrice Evra - 5
Thrice named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, it is extremely unlikely that Evra will be in the running this season, after yet another woeful display.
He did venture forward to win his side a penalty - a debatable one at that - but the Frenchman had already shot United in the foot twice by then.
Let Sturridge dance easily past him in the build-up to Chelsea's first, and then conceded a freekick that led to their third.
Antonio Valencia - 7
Perhaps the expectation on Valencia to terrorise a Chelsea side missing Ashley Cole put unnecessary pressure on the Ecuadorian, who failed to find his touch on Sunday.
Still always provided an outlet down the right, but he failed to swing in as many deliveries as he normally does, and one would have expected him to test Bosingwa more than he did.
Put in a vital interception at the back though, after Torres had glided past Evans and looked ready to pull the trigger.
Michael Carrick - 6
Not much to say about Carrick's performance, except more should be expected from the England international. Only seems to play well when the pressure is on him to initiate proceedings for his team. Whenever there's a more creative team-mate in the side, Carrick seems perfectly happy to sit back and let them do the work. Lazy.
Ryan Giggs - 8
It's official - Giggs has found the fountain of youth. That can be the only explanation how a 38-year-old can not only match professional athletes almost half his age, but better some of them at that.
Was a standout in the first half where he was not only looking to carve open the Chelsea defence, but was regularly seen chasing back whenever United were not in possession. Weighed in with a customary assist when he delivered a brilliant ball for Hernandez to nod home six minutes from time. Write this old man off at your own peril.
Ashley Young (off 52') - 6.5
Good to see United's summer signing back in action, although Young was definitely not at peak fitness. Bettered Ivanovic in a couple of duels in the first half but lost the battle by and large, and it was no surprise to see him hauled off in the 52nd minute.
Wayne Rooney - 9
The only player that could rival Mata for man-of-the-match honours. At times on Sunday, it seemed as though Rooney was playing both in midfield and attack. Dropped deep to pick up possession, spread it out wide, and before you knew it, he was up in the box screaming for the ball.
Struggled to find his radar early on when he sent a couple of shots off target, but considering his poor record from the spot recently, you have to commend him on his courage for stepping up when United were awarded two penalties.
Both times, he expertly sent Cech the wrong way, and it was his rasping drive late on that Cech was unable to hold on to that led to United's equaliser.
Danny Welbeck (off 85') - 6.5
Not one of his best performances of late but one has to remember Welbeck is still relatively young and has plenty of development left in him.
Should have been awarded a penalty, or a freekick at least, when was tripped by Cahill after just ten minutes when clean through on goal. Made a couple of good runs that stretched the Chelsea defence, but for the most part, Welbeck struggled to get into the game.
Did win United's second penalty when he fell under Ivanovic's challenge, although it did seem like he had run into the Serb's standing foot, rather than the other way around.
Javier Hernandez (on 52') - 8
You just have to give credit to Hernandez. After a stellar first season at Old Trafford, he could have been forgiven for sulking at being relegated to the bench for plenty of this campaign. Yet, reminiscent of a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Mexican seems to spend his time on the sidelines analysing the game, before coming off the bench and making an impact.
His overall play has improved as well, and he is now capable of holding up the ball while waiting for support to arrive. But there's still nothing he does better than making the perfect run and putting the ball in the back of the net, something he did in the 84th minute when he snuck in between Cahill and Luiz and nodded home Giggs' cross.
Paul Scholes (on 63') - 6.5
Played one or two good balls, but not the best game we've seen from Scholes to be honest.
Park Ji-sung (on 85') - N/A
Brought on late with minimal time to make an impact.