With the pre-match banter between David Moyes and Jose Mourinho, the match between Manchester United and Chelsea began even before the players took the pitch.
When asked about the new management at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho replied:
“For me, the difference is in the routine of meeting a friend, of being together and relaxed for the match, [I] have the guarantee that after the match, independent of the result, we are together again, enjoying our time and having a laugh…with David, we don’t have this kind of relationship, [we don’t] have a good relationship.”
Moyes seemed less concerned with their friendship and more about what to expect from the match. He explained that Chelsea and United were much the same from last year: the same players and new managers. When asked if that meant he knew what to expect, he said:
“No, because you never know what to expect from a new manager. But they don’t know what to expect from me.”
The antics continued when the team sheets were revealed. United’s starting XI included (for the first time this season) Wayne Rooney, who Chelsea have been pursuing since before the season began. Chelsea’s eleven controversially included neither a striker, nor did it involve Juan Mata. Twitter blew up, with the Chelsea faithful divided on whether or not Jose knew what he was doing. It almost seemed like a classic Mourinho dig at the opposition, as if to say, “You won’t sell me Rooney? Fine, I’ll beat you and I won’t even start a striker.”
All that was before the match.
As for the match, it lived up to the hype.
The first half started with a lot of pace and intensity, as United pressed early and often with the intent of getting the ball and holding it. They won the possession battle 57-43%, but didn’t necessarily create the better chances. Rooney found himself in open space from time to time and showed good quality both with his runs, his passing, and a shot on goal following some clever changes in direction. United were relentless in their approach to break down the Chelsea defense, and created a few chances, but were usually foiled, including a high cross to Robin van Persie that he couldn’t keep down, and a high (though well-taken) left-footed shot by Tom Cleverley after a pressured-filled bout of possession.
Chelsea’s best chances in the first half came through Oscar, who showed classic pace and ability to track to all portions of the pitch, got the ball in good areas, but was unable to take shots that challenged David de Gea.
There were moments of incredible physicality in the first half, with 5 fouls by United and 3 by Chelsea, including questionable tackles by Ashley Cole on Van Persie and Antonio Valencia on Oscar. Referee Martin Atkinson had enough when Kevin de Bruyne challenged Van Persie in the 32nd minute, resulting in the first booking of the match.
The second half changed face only a little, as the game became much wider. Patrice Evra in particular was very good in widening play for United, while Fernando Torres came on in the 60th minute, enabling Andre Schurrle to play on the right wing and open up play for Chelsea. Regardless, every chance for either team had a way of being wasted or otherwise foiled. Danny Welbeck got what appeared to be an easy shot in the box, but he scuffed it to his right and away from the goal. Schurrle got open on a good run but was called back for being offside. And it seemed that every time United began a counter attack, Gary Cahill and John Terry were there to brilliantly break up the attack.