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Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

 Posted by on August 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm  Blogs/Media
Aug 282013

Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
article 2403209 1B79B3E0000005DC 417 634x455 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener! Although a lot of folks are complaining, this game was a pretty logical first game of cat and mouse between two cautious teams. It is way too early in the season for such a match to be any kind of masterpiece, anyway. The much heralded return of José Mourinho to Old Trafford was never ever even in the vicinity of the anticipated drama the gathered press had mooted. Both debutante United manager David Moyes and the Portuguese tacticians were remarkably quiet, whether seated or trolling the sidelines, neither one putting much of a crease in their expensive Saville Row suits.

It would be wrong to call this game boring. There were episodes of high-speed daring-do from both sides, but next to no clear-cut chances at all. Surprisingly, it was the very first 0-0 stalemate in 77 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, stretching back to April, 2007.

In a game played at a hiccup speed with sudden slow-downs and breathing breaks, it was more like a Welterweight championship bout without blood than full-tilt football. Preferring to go without a traditional striker like Torres, Ba or Lukaku, Chelsea concentrated on dominating a gummed-up central midfield, which forced yeoman, concentrated performances out of a United midfield featuring Cleverley, Carrick and a busy link-up-man-cum-striker in Wayne Rooney. Forced to work twice as hard against the relentless shifting gears engineered by the slaloming Oscar, Hazard, De Bruyne and Lampard, they were well up to the task. Had the three worked even half as diligently for Ferguson last year as they did for Moyes on the night, United would have clinched the Premier League championship much earlier. Of course, Juan Mata, who was omnipresent last season was on the bench for reasons only Mourinho knows; nevertheless., United played with the greater sense of swashbuckle between the two teams. Definitely more entertaining and attack-minded than Chelsea, United still lacked the kind of beautiful arrogance and composure on the bell that we expect to really make a difference in big games.

Neither Petr Cech nor David de Gea had to make a truly tough save. Out of the few chances created, United’s pressure was the more sustained. Yet Antonio Valencia could not dominate Ashley Cole as he has on other occasions. At the same time, a lackadaisical Eden Hazard had no heart for repeatedly dribbling his way around a spunky Phil Jones. With young Danny Welbeck playing on the left flank, his obvious discomfort level at having repeated bruising encounters with the Chelsea right back Bronislav Ivanovic was painfully obvious for the whole crowd. Forced to abandon the superb composure he showed against Swansea last week, Welbeck, having muffed a couple of clear-cut chances over the first fifteen minutes after superb set-ups from Rooney, never seemed able to get his mind into the game enough early, when it mattered most urgently. The stubborn enterprise he showed last week abandoned him against the West London team and he was more or less a passenger from then on.
United had a righteous call for a second-half penalty when Tom Cleverley fired a shot from the edge of the penalty box which struck Frank Lampard’s hand. Yet the referee, Martin Atkinson, waved away United’s appeals although the same offenses has already been punished multiple times this season and David Moyes referred specifically to the handball penalty Tottenham Hotspur won at Crystal Palace on the opening weekend at the post-game press conference.PA SOCCER Man Utd 2203139 6700393 5788490 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

Both ‘new’ managers were offered massive applause by the crowd at Old Trafford and they spent a little time on the sidelines engaging in good-natured boyish banter. For Chelsea’s captain John Terry, having Mourinho along for the ride already seems to be paying dividends as the iron-hard old veteran was quietly competent alongside Gary Cahill at the heart of their defense. Their job, handling Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, meant they had a job of work cut out for them. Rooney was a busy bee all night, covering every blade of grass–in spite of both sets of fans’ awareness that he has agitated for a move to the London club–filling in the spaces between United’s undermanned midfield and his Dutch partner. Indeed, despite looking grim all night, nobody could have doubted Rooney’s commitment on the night. Atypical of the Scouser’s will and desire was the play of the game when chased down a jinking Ramires in the 87th minute as, acting as a temporary left-back for a leggy Patrice Evra, he executed an exquisite slide-tackle, fully aware that the Brazilian was trying hard to manufacture a penalty out of losing possession. Unfortunately, his link-up play with Robin van Persie was null and void and it will be interesting to see whether Moyes will try them together again next week at Anfield or bring in a well-rested Shinji Kagawa. When football fans do the usual this Saturday and check football scores live they will certainly be hoping for a more exciting scoresheet than some of this weekends 0-0 results.

Meanwhile, Mourinho, well aware of the lack of mobility in Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, played no strikers, hoping United would be vulnerable to the speed and trickery of Andre Schürrle, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar. Clearly, the Poruguese master coach feels no faith in Demba Ba or United’s long-time tormentor, Fernando Torres, making it very clear why he wants Wayne Rooney so much. For Davie Moyes it was somewhat of a tactical triumph in a game where possession was of the essence. And when ‘The Special One’ finally altered course an hour in, it was to bring on Fernando Torres instead of the callower powerhouse that is Romelo Lukaku. Having failed to even bring Ba along in the squad, Mourinho seemed like a bit of a ditherer. I look forward to the Stamford Bridge rematch when both sides’ kinks will have been ironed out.

Ivor Irwin

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