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Chelsea Shackled by Mourinho's Team Selection in Draw Against Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Oscar of Chelsea is challenged by Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United  during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2013

In the prematch buildup to Monday's clash with Manchester United, Jose Mourinho explained on air to Sky Sports that his approach to include four attacking midfielders at the expense of a recognized striker was aimed at Chelsea causing the opposition a "few problems."

But was that actually his plan? If so, it backfired spectacularly, with Mourinho's team selection causing more issues for his own side than David Moyes'.

It was a shame, too, as there was an air of United being there for the taking at Old Trafford, with the Blues in the perfect position to lay down a marker for the season.

Whereas Chelsea's visit to Old Trafford should have confirmed the notion of there being a changing of the Premier League guard this term, it did nothing more than reinstate the status quo instead. The Blues were disjointed, lacking penetration with their eight touches of the ball in United's box acknowledgement of their limp threat.

On the face of it, Mourinho's selection seemed a bold move and Chelsea's lineup looked promising—one geared toward putting the home side on the back foot. But as the first half wore on, Mourinho's intention soon became clear. Chelsea weren't at Old Trafford to win, they were doing everything possible to avoid defeat.

Andre Schurrle was the man tasked with leading the line in place of the benched Fernando Torres, with Chelsea's midfield looking to utilize his pace in behind the back four. Rather than the young German being fed teasing through balls from the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar in behind him, however, he was forced to chase lost causes with the Blues hoofing long balls his way from deep.

It was frustrating to watch and must have been equally frustrating for the player, making for a relatively easy night at the office for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Mourinho's Chelsea had the look of a team unwilling to risk being exposed, but to win football matches, it comes with the territory.

In its simplest form, that's perhaps a touch naive, although given the talent at their disposal, Chelsea should be confident enough to attack teams and exploit their weaknesses rather than worrying too much over their own. Against United, it was all a little too cautious.

The sight of John Mikel Obi appearing from the bench, replacing Schurrle, outlined this much. Sure, the substitution came with three minutes remaining on the clock, but it was a confirmation of Chelsea's entire approach to this match. They were seeing it out, as they had from the first whistle.

Whereas Moyes had introduced Ashley Young and Ryan Giggs into the fray, attempting to inject a little more zip into his team after the interval, two of Mourinho's three subs were defensive with Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta the others appearing from the bench.

Is this a sign that Mourinho is still pulling this new-look Chelsea together, that he isn't totally at ease with the players at his disposal and the system he wants in place? Probably, yet it shouldn't excuse the fact Chelsea had an opportunity to build on their early-season momentum and cause a little panic at Old Trafford.

Mourinho allowed that opportunity to pass him by, and while he may be happier with a point than his counterpart Moyes is right now, he may live to regret it in the long term.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes.

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