Chelsea grab a point on Jose's return to Old Trafford and Moyes' first night.
By Oliver Wilson
David Moyes was able to take a point from his first Premier League tie at Old Trafford as Manchester United's manager, holding a drab Chelsea team to a 0-0 draw on Monday night.
His side controlled the majority of a game that never lived up to the pre-match hype, with the play of Wayne Rooney being the real spark on the night. For just which club it will end up being a positive for come the end of the transfer window is yet to be made clear
The big news came before the teams had even entered the Theatre of Dreams with both managers making some surprising choices with their starting line-ups.
Moyes, on his first night in the home dugout at Old Trafford in the Premier League, opted to involve Rooney in his starting 11 for the night, despite the never-ending speculation that the English striker would be wearing the shirt of his opponents come the end of the transfer window.
The Special/Happy one, on the other hand, tried to tactically out fox his opposing number, dropping all three of his strikers – Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku – to play a very Barcelona style ‘false number nine’ formation, with Andre Schurrle playing as the front man, with Edin Hazard, Oscar and Kevin de Bruyne playing as the three behind him. Juan Mata, Lukaku and Torres all relegated to the subs bench for the big night.
If both managers had hoped that their line-ups might spark some early creativity then they were sorely mistake as neither side was able to carve out an early effort on goal. Rooney started energetically, harassing the Chelsea defenders but never causing more than an annoyance, while Chelsea, without a focal point to play their attacks through, found it difficult to build anything close to a structured attack.
The closest thing that came to an effort on target came from the right boot of Oscar, the little Brazilian twice firing wide from the top of the area in the first half of the opening 45 minutes but the boy from Brazil was unable to find the target on either occasion.
Michael Carrick’s pressure on Ramires forced the first opening for the home side as Robin van Persie broke onto the lose ball and blasted his shot into the side netting from a tight angle. Replays showed that the shot took a slight deflection but neither the linesman nor the referee noticed.
The Dutchman struggled to make an impact on a half devoid of clear cut strikes on goal, his frustration at the game maybe helping the United forward to throw a flailing arm into the face of de Bruyne as the Chelsea midfielder missed his challenge. The young Belgian was left bloodied and bruised as van Persie ‘protected himself’ from the challenge.
As the half drew to a close United were well and truly on top of the game but Chelsea’s defence was holding out enough to prevent a clear sight on goal. Tom Cleverly rocketed one over the crossbar as he latched onto a lose ball in the edge of the box while Oscar finally found the target with a strike as he latched onto Phil Jones’ clearance from the feet of Hazard, his effort, though, was hardly enough to force anything more than a routine save from David De Gea.
No changes came at the break both in terms of personnel and the flow of the game. United were able to eagerly push forward, controlling possession and pushing into their opponents half. Danny Wellbeck looked to have been gifted the opportunity as Chelsea were pushed back into the final third but the man who finished so clinically against Swansea last weekend couldn’t find the target from 15-yards after Rooney worked so well to open a way through the Blue lines of defence five minutes before the hour mark.
Schurrle forced a nervous intake of breath from the capacity crowd at Old Trafford when his effort crashed off the bar on 58 minutes, luckily for those wearing red the German midfielder was offside ruled offside.
On the hour mark came Fernando Torres, replacing the bloodied de Bruyne but his arrival failed to spark an immediate response from those around him, while Frank Lampard was able to avoid an repercussion for inadvertently using his arm to block another Cleverly strike, despite the protests of a few thousand United fans.
The arrival of Ashley Young midway through the half began to cause a few more problems for Chelsea and the right-winger provided a wonderful ball in from the flank. Cech was able to get out to the cross first, but had he not intervened Wellbeck was waiting to get a nick from close range.
Chelsea finally began to probe forward but there was nothing to worry a vigilant and well-balanced United back four. Rooney continued to be the best player on the pitch, helping out on the defensive end with a fantastic tackle on Ramires down by his own bye-line, before launching a strike from range the finally forced a diving save from the Chelsea keeper. Had the United striker noticed the possible through ball to his Dutch teammate he may not have been too quick to pull the trigger.
A defensive substitution from each side indicated the priorities for both managers to hold onto a clean sheet and a point apiece as the final few minutes ticked away. A last chance for United came when Rooney once again led a charge forward but the Englishman, again, refused to look for the support of van Persie, the two were out of sync all night and never found the relationship that Sir Alex Ferguson hoped they would forge on when he signed him last season.
Chelsea sit on top of the league after three games while David Moyes has, at least, kept a clean sheet and held a potentially imposing Chelsea side to just a point in his first run out on his new home ground. He still, though, has never beaten Mourinho.