It’s hard to be sure where Wayne Rooney is going to be this time next week. If United stand by the public stubborn stance regarding his future, he’ll still be at Old Trafford. There are strong rumour’s that both Rooney and United want a parting of the ways, the sticking point is as to where Rooney could end up. Wherever Rooney is going to be, one thing is certain, tonight he was outstanding against a club who have spent all summer trying to unsettle him with a discretion, subtlety and class which they are in their own league for. Tonight was a frustrating game, United whilst not rampant, should have beaten an efficient but painfully dull side. This summer, there has been an awful lot of hype over the return of the United spurned Jose Mourinho. The deposed champions side that he left by ‘mutual consent’ in 2007 had an aura about them. Sure they weren’t invincible but they were a team which put me in mind of Bob Paisley’s Liverpool sides, such was their machine like efficiency. Tonight, Chelsea didn’t have that aura. They were lucky and all good sides have their fair share of luck. Maybe they’ll build on the luck to create a solidity that they had a few years ago but I doubt it. Unlike the 2004/2006 era, this Chelsea side look to me like they’re going to drop some daft points. The bookies have United as third favourites behind City and Chelsea but from what I’ve seen this weekend, they must be basing their logic on the hype surrounding Mourinho’s return and on City employing a manager who has won as many honour’s in his European career as David Moyes. I’ve seen nothing from either City or Chelsea that should keep David Moyes awake at night.
United were denied a definite penalty when slim Frank Lampard handled a Tom Cleverley shot on 62 minutes. How referee Martin Atkinson didn’t see that as a penalty has me wondering just what exactly is a handball. It was as blatant a penalty as I will see this season. Nine minutes later, in a tussle with Phil Jones, the truly odious Ashley Cole tried conning the referee to try and win a penalty in front of the Scoreboard End. Cole should have been booked for his dive. Chelsea had a game plan which was simply not to lose. With the dangerous and brilliant Juan Mata left on the Chelsea bench, they also started the match without a recognised centre forward and stayed that way until the possible bastard son of Adrian Heath, Fernando Torres was introduced on the hour. There’s always a nagging fear when Torres is around that Chelsea could steal a win in the same manner that they did so well during their successful period some 6/8 years ago. A Chelsea win tonight would’ve been a travesty but if they had have capitalised on the occasional chances they got, United would’ve only had themselves to blame. Cleverley and Rooney were both unlucky in the first half not to score whilst Robin Van Persie hit the side netting. Danny Welbeck squandered United’s best chance by shooting high and wide into the Stretford End on 57 minutes after some good work by Wayne Rooney.
We ended up with honours even. Bearing in mind United’s lousy record against Chelsea at Old Trafford, a draw is not the end of the world. Chelsea were there for the taking but I believe that if United play most games like they played tonight, they’ll be in serious contention for the title come the end of the season. I suppose if Chelsea can grind out results like they did tonight, they probably will be as well but the operative word there is grind. Christ, imagine having to watch football like that every week?