Manchester United and Chelsea played to a scoreless stalemate on Monday as David Moyes made his competitive debut as Red Devils manager at Old Trafford.
Opposite Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor on the touchline was Jose Mourinho, and the Portuguese raised some eyebrows with his team selection when he didn’t name a recognized striker among his starting 11.
Moyes, meanwhile, handed a somewhat surprising start to Wayne Rooney, who had already been the subject of two bids from Chelsea heading into the encounter.
But the distraction of his future didn’t seem to have any effect on the 27-year-old on this night. From the get-go the England man was lively, creative and dedicated in his defensive duties.
United carried the play through much of the first half, and while they failed to create a meaningful scoring chance their interplay was often linked by Rooney and anchored by the central midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, who bossed their region of the park throughout the 90 minutes.
But Chelsea managed to create some openings on the counter—Oscar most notably shooting wide on two occasions before he finally forced David De Gea into a save near the end of the opening period.
After the restart things cranked up a notch with Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra looking to exploit the space down the flanks and Oscar and Eden Hazard moving the ball quickly downfield whenever their opponents coughed it up.
Perhaps the best chance for either side came in the 56th minute when Danny Welbeck, having been played through splendidly by Rooney, proceeded to sloppily scoop the ball over Petr Cech’s crossbar.
Three minutes later Gary Cahill had a go from distance, but in truth much of this mostly cagey affair was fought outside the 18-yard boxes and on the extreme flanks of the pitch.
Shortly after the hour-mark United had a penalty shout when the ball hit Frank Lampard’s hand, but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on and with the decision fanned the flames of one of the game’s more compelling talking points.
With two minutes remaining Robin Van Persie took his best shot of the evening, only to see substitute John Obi Mikel bravely throw himself in front of the Dutchman’s venomous drive.
At the final whistle the 0-0 draw was the correct result—a fair one for both sides, although Moyes will surely have been encouraged with his side’s display in possession.
Key Player Grades
Wayne Rooney: A
All eyes were on the Manchester United attacker as soon as his name appeared on the teamsheet, but right from the start he was one of the more involved players on the field and created much of what United mustered in the attacking third. He also committed himself on defense and made at least two important interventions in front of the United goal.
Michael Carrick: A+
Carrick dominated the midfield—providing the sort of orchestration that served United so well en route to winning the title last season. He touched the ball 79 times and completed 87 percent of his passes, most of them while being harassed by Oscar or Hazard.
Eden Hazard: B
The Belgian’s passing success rate of 90 percent was impressive, but he only managed a single shot over the course of the match and didn’t create nearly the number of openings Mourinho would have been hoping for when he decided to omit both Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku from the starting 11.
John Terry: A+
He comes in for a lot of criticism—some of which is warranted—but on this night the veteran Chelsea defender’s ability to read the game could well have been his side’s biggest factor in taking a point from Old Trafford. He won 60 percent of his aerial duels and consistently played a good first pass.
United will next face Liverpool at Anfield on September 1, returning from the international break two weeks later with a home date against Crystal Palace. Chelsea have the European Super Cup to dispute on August 30, and they’ll be away to Everton on September 14.
All statistics via WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.