THERE were some stirring goalfests between Chelsea and Man United last season – but the controlling pragmatism of Jose Mourinho ensured this would be no repeat.
For all the pre-match excitement and the sense of anticipation about the return of Mourinho to Old Trafford and – for the home fans – the first game in charge for David Moyes at the Theatre of Dreams, this was an entirely forgettable encounter.
We might have known, given that the Chelsea team-sheet did not contain any of the recognised strikers – Andre Schurrle (pictured) taking up lone forward duties until Fernando Torres came on after an hour.
The Blues were looking to steal a goal from somewhere on the break rather than risk reckless adventure and it all seemed part of the master plan from their great returning dug-out tactician that the game should meander towards a tame draw.
The industry of Kevin de Bruyne on the right and Schurrle down the middle helped create three half chances, of sorts, for Oscar in the first half. But none of his efforts could be said to have seriously worried United stopper David De Gea, and it set the tone.
The champions too, were reduced to living off scraps, although Robin Van Persie did rifle into the side netting after going around Branislav Ivanovic and Tom Cleverley curled over from outside the area. But it was hardly earth-shattering stuff.
Wayne Rooney, found himself cheered heartily by both set of fans – the Chelsea corner chanting 'We'll see you next week' to the England striker, who the Blues are said to be about to bid for again this week.
He looked highly motivated in the red of United – enough to make it hard to imagine in the blue of Chelsea. But time will tell.
The stand-offish nature of the contest persisted after the interval - the odd pot-shot from distance breaking up the midfield stalemate from time to time.
Torres came on for De Bruyne, but the Blues were not noticeably more potent.
United did give Mourinho's men a scare when Rooney played in Danny Welbeck at the start of the half, but the ball got stuck under the striker's feet and it was all he could do to scoop a lame shot wide as blue shirts surrounded him. Rooney had a couple of long range efforts as well to test whether Petr Cech was still awake.
For Chelsea, Ashley Cole was outraged when he tumbled inside the area as he darted past Phil Jones, but ref Martin Atkinson was probably correct in concluding contact had been minimal.
A raised arm from Frank Lampard that connected with a Cleverley drive also drew a negative response towards appeals for a penalty.
In truth, justice was done because neither side did enough to win a match, which, for once, did not live up to the hype.
Line up: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, De Bruyne (Torres 60), Oscar, Hazard (Azpilicueta 90); Schurrle (Mikel 88). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Essien, Mata, Lukaku.