Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea: Handballgate Erupts During Tense Match

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.

The second half wasn’t without its controversy, however. For the second (and third) time in two games, Chelsea were on the fortunate end of a handball call in their own penalty box, as Frank Lampard stopped a shot with his outstretched arm. Old Trafford erupted in boos toward Martin Atkinson, but he responded, “play on.” Then later on, John Obi Mikel had a shot hit his arm, was turned toward the goal and had his arms to his sides, and the referee didn’t call the foul.

The match ended as tense as it began, with a corner for United in the final minute of stoppage. Van Persie flicked in the kick, and it bounced around several times before being cleared out of danger, after which the match ended.

For the average soccer fan, a 0-0 can be hard to watch. This one was not without its takeaways for both teams, however.

First of all, this match was a perfect display of the excellence of Chelsea’s back four. For me, Gary Cahill may have been the best player in the entire match, but at least for Chelsea. His positioning was excellent, and he broke up many of United’s chances. He cleared out a lot of late danger and marked well. But much the same could be said of John Terry (on one play he was caught in the center circle when United began a counter attack) and Branislav Ivanovic, who also played a big role in bringing play forward for Chelsea on the right side. Ashley Cole had his lapses in the first half, struggling both on and off the ball, but in the second half tightened things up and made good defensive plays. The argument could be made that Chelsea have one of the better back fours in the Premier League, if not (dare I say) the best, when in form.

Second, United’s problems in central midfield are a little overplayed. Perhaps this was a result of having Wayne Rooney in the side (which we’ll get to momentarily,) but Michael Carrick and especially Cleverley had good games going up against a pressuring and paced Chelsea midfield. They didn’t use the long ball as often as analysts predicted, and seemed able to create chances even while keeping the ball on the ground. That’s not to say United don’t have issues, but perhaps they’re not as bad as they’re made out to be.

Third and finally, Rooney is a really good player. This speaks for itself, and it’s not exactly been in question, but seeing him for a full 90 minutes was a reminder of why he is so highly coveted. He played very well behind Van Persie, causing frustration in the defensive midfield of Chelsea, and provided very good passes, both short and long, along with great vision to pick out the open player. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up, and how he’ll be used. Last week against Swansea, United played a 4-2-3-1, and this week a 4-4-1-1. Obviously the goals poured in last week, but this week they faced a more difficult test in the defense of Chelsea. The Rooney transfer saga continues to be an interesting one.

28 thoughts on “Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea: Handballgate Erupts During Tense Match”

  1. “As for the match, it lived up to the hype.”

    I don’t think you will find a lot of people that agree with this statement.

  2. Yours is the only match report implying Lampard’s handball should have been called. Missed the game because i work for a living, but apparebtly it was very close range.

    1. Does the rest of the world work the same hours as you? Or is it possible to work different shifts?

      Either way, it won’t stop you from commenting on something you didn’t even see.

    2. Handball is about positioning and intent. The Mikel non-call was the correct decision- he had his arms close to his body and did not make any effort to touch the ball. It would have hit his torso if his arm were not there.

      The Lampard handball should have been called – it was a penalty. Regardless of the distance between Lamps and the shooter, his arm was extended in an unnatural position in a clear effort to place it between the shooter and the goal.

      Atkinson has a history of controversial calls and non-calls in United / Chelsea ties- he was absolutely the wrong choice.

      In his defense, any referee would have a hard time making that call at game speed, and many (including Atkinson) tend to lack the fortitude required to make those difficult, game-defining calls.

  3. This match definitely didn’t live up to the hype. We forgot that Mourinho’s teams are never fun to watch. It’s all about the result with him.

    He didn’t start a striker as a message to Rooney that Chelsea will allow him to play as a striker which is where he likes to play. Clever move my him. Also, it’s a message to Roman that he wants a striker brought in as he doesn’t think either Torres or Ba are his type of players.

    1. Wait… was that his message? Because I got “We have Torres and Ba on our team, but I won’t even play them. We have a nice spot on the bench for you.” :^P

    2. It was also a clear message that Mourinho is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

      Thanks to Jose’s “clever” tactical decisions, Chelsea surrendered their advantages in midfield, were completely outplayed up and down the pitch, and it took some stellar defending, poor finishing from United, and two fortunate non-calls in the box for Jose to walk away with a point. Not very “special” IMO.

  4. I thought it was pretty clearly a handball. I understand why the refs don’t always call these things because that type of shot probably has a 5% chance of being a goal and if you give RVP a penalty kick, that’s probably a 90% chance of a goal.

    But….even if the handball rule is kinda dumb, I don’t really see how the ref doesn’t call that. It isn’t like his arm was against his body and the ball hit it…..his arm was flapping out there and knocked down a shot. That’s a handball. If it happened at midfield, it would have been called.

    1. yep. it doesn’t matter to me that it was close range. lampard knew what he was doing. he was trying to block a shot and left his arm away from his body in the hopes of getting more of himself in the way of the ball.

      another thing i don’t understand was how atkinson didn’t card cole for his dive. that has to be either a penalty or a booking for a dive. and it was a clear dive.

      1. if the dive was not simulation then there is no simulation.Atkinson was not in top i said during match Fat Frank got away with one.

        1. i’m not saying every time a player goes down in the box it has to be either a dive or a penalty, but in this case i think it’s true. cole was simulating that there was something that caused him to fall. the only thing that caused him to fall was his desire to win a penalty.

        2. Atkinson is a decent referee and I appreciate his reluctance to show cards – but for some reason he is never in top form in Chelsea v. United matches.

  5. The match lived up to it’s hype? What were you watching? That was one of the most boring games I’ve seen!

    On the penalty front I watched MOTD tonight and cannot believe the ineptitude of the commentators! One actually has coaching badges (Shearer) but to be fair he said it wasn’t a pen, which of course he’s correct. The other Schmichel said by the letter of the law it was. Now lets get this straight the letter of the law says exactly the opposite. That is for it to be a direct free kick in the box (a penalty) the hand ball must be deliberate, not any other reason. Both waffled on about refs being unclear, absolute nonsense. The rule is clear as day…..

    A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following three offenses..
    1, holds on to an opponent
    2, spits at an opponent
    3, handles the ball DELIBERATELY (except the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

    That’s pretty clear to me. The only grey area is how a ref would decide if it was Deliberate or not. In this case he would have asked himself 1, was the ball struck at pace for short distance? He answer is clearly yes
    2, was there any reason for the player to stop the ball? The answer is no as it was heading to roe Z
    3, did the player have any awareness of the hand ball? As it was hit a pace from 1 or 2 yards and he turned his head away from the ball, again no
    4, was his arm in an unnatural position? this is the hardest one as to jump spin etc you must use your arms depending on which ref some understand basic biomechanics some don’t. But it’s clearly another no.

    So never a penalty there have been some awarded all ready the were simply not pens and that’s not because the ref doesn’t know in my opinion that’s because crowd pressure and\or big team little team syndrome, not fair but fact.

    So to give a penalty the ref has to think it was done deliberately if it wasn’t it wasn’t a penalty, simple!

      1. Well that’s the rules!!! Why should a penalty be given because of a totally accidental hand ball? You’d have players constantly flicking the ball at players in the box trying to gain them otherwise.

  6. Horrid game that exposed both clubs shortcomings. Why was 100 year old Gigs starting? Moyes is wasting Kagawa by keeping him on the bench, he needs to be out there. Mourinho’s tactics and style of play as usual put me in a deep sleep – yes, he’ll get his results but bogged down boring is back in the Prem.

    1. Not to nitpick, but Giggs didn’t start, he came off the bench. Agreed that Mourinho’s style can be a bit boring, but I thought United forced the match into being some degree of exciting by making Chelsea defend. At least Mourinho is interesting OFF the pitch!

      1. At least Mourinho is interesting OFF the pitch!
        Haha! Well said. And yes, if we’re counting votes, it was a definite PK with Lampard’s arm-gate. No doubt about it. Interesting how Chelsea is getting none calls so far. Hmmmmmm.

  7. Thought Chelsea would have been better if they had Mata in the starting XI. They just couldn’t do anything in the final third besides pass it left and right and they couldn’t put crosses in because they had no point man up front.

    1. Nobody is giving Moyes credit for plugging Jones into midfield – but IMO that completely neutralized Oscar and Hazard…

      1. just curious, is there a website where one can check a team’s roster for injured players? it would be helpful.

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