It’s normally one of the highlight games of the season. The two clubs that have dominated the Premier League over the last few years were going head-to-head, and it was one not to be missed. Unfortunately for all watching, the game was never the spectacle that it was hyped to be. With new managers in each camp, both determined not to let the other ‘put down a marker,’ a draw was probably always the likeliest result.
In the cold light of day, the point is probably more valuable to Chelsea and their Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho than to United’s David Moyes. Going to the home of the current champions and returning with a clean sheet is no small achievement, and certainly one which represented a massive improvement on the Blues’ defensive stability compared to last term. Although rarely threatening the Manchester United goal, Chelsea enjoyed a good share of possession, and skipper John Terry looked back to his imperious best at the heart of the back line. Well as Terry played however, the Man of the Match accolade was widely awarded to Wayne Rooney.
It was a bit of a no-brainer to pick the recently recalcitrant Rooney for this fixture. Although some said that his ‘head may not be in the right place’ or something akin to that, on the pitch, Rooney’s head was very much fixed atop his United shirt. It must have been a fairly unique experience for the England forward to have both sets of supporters chanting his name, but if it brought a wry smile to him, he hid it well.
The game was largely strangulated by an over-populated midfield that cancelled each other out. Whenever Rooney took possession however, there was a sparkle and crackle about his intent. One deliciously disguised lay off to van Persie in the first half nearly put the Dutchman through, but the ball was just smothered by Cech in the Chelsea goal. As the second half progressed though, it seemed that Rooney’s iron will to win the game, grew apace. After seventy odd minutes, he chased the pacey Ramirez twenty yards back to the byline to prevent a cross, slid in, retained the ball and set United off and running again. Chelsea’s energetic Brazilian looked stunned, perhaps not only by the physical attributes of Rooney, but also the determination that he was displaying apparently for an employer he was seriously at odds with.
Without doubt, Rooney made a point with his performance. Here was the Rooney of old; not only bustling with aggression and desire, but with the sublime skills required to turn a match at the highest level. The question that arises though is, who was he trying to make a point to. Was it present club manager David Moyes, that it was a mistake to leave him out of the team, or was it to Mourinho, saying pay the price, come and get me?
Interestingly, after the match, Mourinho alluded to the player having 48 hours to declare openly whether he wants to go or stay. It seems we’re now entering the end game on the proposed deal. With only days left in the window, I guess that’s somewhat inevitable. When the window does snap shut, if Rooney can maintain the form and desire displayed in this game, whoever has secured his services, will have a player of the highest calibre.
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