The main talking point of United first home game of the season was the ‘will he, won’t he’ play saga surrounding Wayne Rooney. David Moyes decided to opt for the want away striker in his first Premier League game at Old Trafford, placing him upfront with Robin Van Persie.
Jose Mourinho provided the media with more ammunition to load their papers with speculation, by fielding a team without a striker, much like Spain in Euro 2012. Immediately the Twitter sphere began to buzz with speculation that the line-up was a message to Rooney saying ‘I want you as my striker’.
Rooney started the game well chasing Ashley Cole down and clattering into the back of John Terry, who wouldn’t love to do that? United enjoyed some early possession and both sets of fans seemed to be cheering Rooney’s name every time he touched the ball. Chelsea fans classy as always opted to boo Rio Ferdinand due to his brother being racially abused by their captain ‘fantastic’. The first chance of the game fell to Oscar, who hit a decent shot straight at De Gea from the edge of the area. The first 20 minutes of the game both teams seemed to be content to keep possession and be for patient to wait for an opening. Ashley Cole should have been booked for hacking down RVP in a potential counter attacking move, but the England left-back got away with it. The Dutchman picked himself up to release Rooney on the wing, he picked out a cross for Welbeck arriving at the back post but it was well cut out by Ivanovic.
United had the better of the play, winning a few corners but with no clear but chances to speak of. The game was turning into a tight affair with neither team committing to many players forward. RVP had a decent chance but headed Evra’s cross wide. Rooney was next, using a lovely bit of skill to get some space away from Gary Cahill but his shot lacked power and was easily gathered by Cech. The first yellow card was finally brandished in the 32nd minute after RVP was hacked down again, this time by De Bruyne. The game was all about solid defending with both teams doing well and not giving much entertainment to the fans. Cleverley woke Old Trafford up with a powerful drive from outside the box that nearly found the top corner; this was after good work from Jones and Valencia on the right wing. The dull half ended with a tame effort from Oscar that didn’t trouble David De Gea. Not the spectacle the Old Trafford Faithful were expecting on their return to the Theatre of Dreams after a long summer.
The 2nd half started much like the 1st ended with United in possession and Chelsea content to keep tight at the back and hit on the counter. The game was crying out for a player like Kagawa to come on and make something happen. Hazard had a speculative effort gobbled up by De Gea not long after United had a decent chance when Evra galloped forward into the Chelsea third unopposed. The Frenchman should have had a shot but opted to pass to Welbeck and the move broke down. The best chance of the match came in the 55th minute. Cleverley made a great touch under pressure from a poor kick by De Gea, from this he managed to find Carrick who picked out Evra with a Scholes-esque pass. Evra made a great first touch to bring the ball inside and when Welbeck found himself with space and time in the area he could only swing a leg and hit a poor shot over the bar. We expect much better from Danny with his recent goals at Swansea.
This chance seemed to motivate both teams to up the tempo. Chelsea began venturing forward, firstly with a decent effort from Gary Cahill from distance and then Schurrle smashed the ball off the crossbar only to be given offside, to the relief of Evra who was caught out of position at the back. Mourinho’s tactics of playing without a recognised striker were clearly not working; Schurrle was in Vidic’s back pocket all evening so on came Fernando Torres. This change of formation seemed to give United more space and United almost immediately got a reward when Tom Cleverley’s shot was blocked by Frank Lampard’s hands. Penalty? This appeal would fall into the ‘seen them given’ category.
Ashley Young came on to replace Valencia for his first appearance in the Premier League since March. The longer the game went on it seemed that both teams were content with a point following City’s defeat the day before. Wayne Rooney’s quality began to show with a beautiful pass out to Young on the left who had two bites of the cherry to deliver a cross. The second much better forcing check to dive out and make a weak punch out, unfortunately no United player was following up. Rooney continued to impress, working back hard and making a great tackle on Ramires and then playing a forward ball to RVP. Robin waited for support but Ashley Young was offside when he finally played it to him. Rooney looked like a man on a mission, unleashing a 30 yard pile driver that Cech could only palm away for a corner. Although maybe his desire to prove a point was not benefiting the team as RVP was in acres of space whilst he took the shot.
The game took a turn for the worst with substitutions being the only events to take note of. Giggs was brought on to replace Welbeck in the 79th minute and Schurrle was replaced by Mikel on the 88th minute. The change from Mourinho could be interpreted as not the most attacking, or maybe even that he wanted to ‘shut up shop’ and ‘park the bus’ in front of Chelsea’s goal. RVP had a volleyed effort blocked by Mikel late on, the substitute doing his job of what he does best as a footballer; get in the way of attacking players. Mourinho was calling for the whistle from the touch line as United had a stoppage time corner cleared by John Terry. That was to be the last action of a tight tactical game where both teams will be satisfied with a point.
United had the better of the chances but a draw was a fair result. A massive positive can be taken from Wayne Rooney’s Man of the Match performance. In my opinion this has cemented his place at United. He was 100% professional and committed to his job. Moyes is now in a win-win situation with regards to the speculation of his future.
Man of the match: Wayne Rooney.