Manchester Utd 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea travelled to Old Trafford on bank holiday Monday evening to take on Manchester Utd, the side expected to be their closest rivals for this season’s Premier League title.
Chelsea’s recently re-installed manager José Mourinho took with him a good track record of getting positive results at the Theatre of Dreams and, on the whole, Old Trafford is a ground that holds no fear for the Londoners.
Mourinho’s opposite number David Moyes – the man that has the stiff task of following in the footsteps of his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson – was taking charge of his first competitive home match since becoming Utd’s manager.
With the much publicised saga concerning the possible transfer from Manchester Utd to Chelsea of Wayne Rooney, the travelling supporters enjoyed the fact that they were able to cheer the player, even though he was playing for the opposition.
Mourinho chose to start the match without last season’s strike force of Fernando Torres who was the bench and Demba Ba who didn’t make the squad, preferring instead to put out a side that was heavy in the midfield department.
Despite the fact that many observers feel that both Frank Lampard and John Terry are approaching the twilight of their careers, both started their third consecutive match of the season.
Both sides made a tentative start to the game and it wasn’t until the 10th minute that Chelsea had their first attempt on goal, Oscar’s shot being easily dealt with by Utd keeper De Gea.
Back came Utd and it was down to Branislav Ivanovic to put the ball away behind with the resulting corner – hit in by Van Persie – cleared away by John Terry.
In the 16th minute, a free-kick awarded to the home side was sent into the Chelsea danger area by Cleverley only to be met by Kevin De Bruyne who hit the ball away. Seconds later, Rooney picked up the ball and put it back into the Blues’ area but this time it was Terry who got in the way to negate any threat.
Within a minute, Valencia had picked up the ball and again put the Chelsea goal under pressure, delivering a cross but his effort was dealt with by the ever reliable Lampard who punted it away from Petr Cech’s goal.
A 22nd minute shot at goal hit by Oscar went to the right of the target before, at the other end, Van Persie saw his attempt fly wide of the goal. The 24th minute saw the Dutchman try again, this time meeting a cross from Evra but his header was not on target and went harmlessly past the right-hand side of the Chelsea goal.
Ivanovic, Oscar and Gary Cahill all made clearances as the home side had a three minute spell where they were on top then, in the 29th minute, Rooney gave Cech his first real piece of work, the England star shooting from the edge of the penalty area but the Chelsea keeper made a relatively easy save, diving to his right and holding on to the ball.
Three minutes later, De Bruyne received his first booking in English football, the referee showing him a yellow card for what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge on Van Persie.
There then came a period when no side seemed to be getting anywhere near there opponents goal, the Chelsea midfield effectively snuffing out the threat from Utd’s front three of Welbeck, Rooney and Van Persie.
At half-time approached, it Chelsea who seemed to take the initiative although with Ferdinand and Vidic managing to clear the ball away when required, the visitors where only controlling the midfield and, until Oscar saw his effort saved a minute before the break.
The second period began with neither side having made any changes to their line-ups and, with Chelsea now kicking towards the end where their supporters were housed, those cheering for the Blues were hoping for an improvement in the final third.
It was however, Moyes’ men who took the game to Chelsea, with Cahill, Terry and Ashley Cole all clearing the danger as Utd enjoyed a two-minute spell of sustained pressure.
Eden Hazard, who had looked lively every time he touched the ball, had a good chance in the 51sst minute but the Utd keeper was equal to the task and blocked the Belgian’s effort.
Welbeck then had two chances within the space of a minute but, fortunately for Chelsea, the England international screwed his shots to the right of Cech and wide.
Andre Schurrle – a summer signing who looks totally at home in Chelsea’s colours – took a shot but it was blocked by Cleverley, the rebound only going as far as the advancing Cahill who hit the ball towards the goal from 25-yards, only to see De Gea collect easily.
With an hour almost played, De Bruyne was replaced by Torres as Mourinho looked to take the game to Utd, the Spaniard taking up a forward position on the left-hand side of the pitch.
Lampard – who struggled to earn a place last season under Rafa Benitez but was playing his third consecutive match for José Mourinho – showed his desire as well as his experience as he again dropped back to help his defence clear the ball away for the second successive time as Utd came forward, the England midfielder complementing his international team-mate Cole who’d moments earlier also played the it away from Cech’s area.
The Chelsea keeper then made a good save from Rooney before Hazard, making another incisive run down the flank, crossed the ball into the area but there was no-one there to meet it.
Back Utd came and it was Cole and Cahill who were on hand to stop the danger, the pair each thwarting the hopes of the Old Trafford faithful by getting their bodies in the path of the ball thereby disrupting another attack.
Then, the game appeared to swing Chelsea’s way, the Blues enjoying a spell exerting pressure of their own and causing the Utd defence to make somewhat hurried clearances.
After the ball was put behind by Vidic, Lampard stepped up to take the corner but his cross went over the heads of every body in the area and fell to Ivanovic on the right who played it straight back in but couldn’t find a Chelsea player.
A minute later, the Serbian had another chance and again swung the ball into the area and this time it was met by Torres but his header went wide of the target. After a challenge on Cleverley – the Spaniard who had been in the wrong end of some stiff tackles – was himself booked.
With four minutes remaining, John Obi Mikel was introduced and replaced Schurrle who’d had a good game but was replaced as the Chelsea manager looked to shore up the defence.
In the 90th minute and as the fourth official signalled there would be three minutes of added time, Cesar Azpilicueta came on for Hazard as Utd looked to steal a win but, with Chelsea’s defence now impenetrable, Moyes’ side were unable to take the initiative and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
Not the result that either side wanted but again, both managers were happy that their charges remained unbeaten. With Chelsea having played one more game than Utd, Mourinho’s side went to the top of the table having acquired 7 points from 3 matches.
Next up, a trip to Prague to face 2012 Champions League Final opponents Bayern Munich in the Super Cup.
Chelsea; Cech, Cole, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic, Terry, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, De Bruyne (Torres), Hazard (Azpilicueta), Schurrle (Mikel)
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Essien, Mata, Lukaku
Ref: M Atkinson