1. Rooney lets his feet do the talking
There were so many talking points prior to kick off on Monday. The biggest one, surely, was the future of Wayne Rooney. He’s been unhappy since being left out of the Champions League second round second leg game against Real Madrid, and Chelsea and Jose Mourinho are big admirers of him.
Hence, this has resulted in one of the transfer sagas of the summer.
United are adamant they’re not going to sell, particularly for the paltry sums so far stumped up by Chelsea.
Most United fans, while being fed up with Rooney’s supposed unhappiness with life at Old Trafford and his desire to clarify his future and role at the club with Moyes, do not want to see him go. Or, at least, they don’t want to see him sold to one of our main title rivals.
We all know how good a player Rooney is, and if he were built up and put on a pedestal by Mourinho at Chelsea, we know he would surely rediscover the fire in his belly that fuels his talent, and shoot Chelsea towards the league title.
With that in mind, it was nice to see Rooney put in a typical Rooney performance against Chelsea.
While the game lacked any real spark, Rooney was at least the stand out attacking performer, and he healed the wound that has opened between him and United fans over the summer by throwing himself into tackles and putting in an all-round good shift.
Deep down, he might crave a transfer to Chelsea, but I think he also respects the club deeply and the stage we’ve provided him with over his Reds’ career.
It’s a very important year for him personally, with the World Cup coming next summer, so he can’t afford to sulk and risk being cast into the shadows. He needs to be playing, affecting games, and catching the eye of England boss Roy Hodgson.
Brazil could quite feasibly be Rooney’s last chance to play in a World Cup and I think he realises United won’t sell to Chelsea, so falling in line and playing well for United is the best way forward.
2. Rooney staying may see Kagawa depart
Having said all that, do we already possess the key that could have unlocked the Chelsea defence on Monday?
The most potent weapon at Moyes’ disposal was left on the bench, and I’m worried for the Old Trafford future of Shinji Kagawa.
Chelsea defended resolutely and while United enjoyed the majority of possession, we weren’t able to find the key passes to unlock the Chelsea defence.
Kagawa could have been the man to do so, but he was left on the bench.
After his impressive performance off the bench against Swansea, Moyes would have felt a little under pressure to play Rooney and give him a boost, and perhaps help make up his mind over any potential transfer request as well as help convince him he has a future at Old Trafford.
And, after scoring two goals each in South Wales, the Scot couldn’t very well leave Danny Welbeck or Robin van Persie out of the team.
While Rooney was arguably the game’s standout attacking player, I don’t see him as the ’10’ to Van Persie’s ‘9’.
Monday’s game highlighted the fact both sides were crying out for a playmaker to get a goal, but while Juan Mata remained on the Chelsea bench, so too did United’s Japanese magician.
Both managers opted to play not to lose as opposed to going for a win, a mentality which while I’m not exactly against in the first big game of the season, I do feel is something that is a black spot against Moyes.
We acquired Kagawa for £17m, a steal of a deal, but I think the fear that a rejuvenated Rooney, if sold to Chelsea, would almost be gift-wrapping the Premier League title for the West Londoners, and that scares Moyes stiff.
Honestly, it scares me too, but I worry perhaps that we’re keeping Rooney more for the sake of preventing any other team from winning the league as we are for attempting to retain it ourselves.
Rooney is a fantastic player and I want him to stay and get back to his brilliant best. But I believe that him staying will be detrimental to Kagawa. I don’t think there’s room or a role for both players at the club.
3. Moyes vs. Mourinho
On the opposite hand to issues regarding Kagawa and Rooney’s futures and an explanation as to why Monday’s game was such a stalemate is the other major talking point prior to the game – and that’s the power struggle between the managers.
The game was the first clash between two of the league’s big guns of the new season.
It was Moyes’ first competitive game at Old Trafford and it was also Mourinho’s first big test and an early visit to the ground where many, perhaps even he, might have envisioned calling home at the beginning of the summer.
I suggested Moyes might have been playing it safe, especially when it came to the substitutes he made.
Now, while we are used to and want to be entertained at Old Trafford, and we certainly want to see Moyes carry on the grand traditions of the club, is it really such a bad thing that in his first game in front of the home crowd, and against such challenging opposition as Chelsea, he simply wanted to avoid defeat?
Of course not.
Perhaps in the next two away games, against Liverpool and Manchester City, we might see similar tactics deployed.
At Anfield and the Etihad, will the Scot deploy similar tactics to what Mourinho utilised at Old Trafford on Monday?
Sensible critics and most United fans realise the Moyes project is intended to be a progressive one, not a responsive one.
It will take time for Moyes to assert himself at United and mould the squad into his own image.
It’s not intended to be a quick fix. He’s here for the long term, and with the opening five fixtures we face, are we really expecting Moyes to put it all on the line and risk it blowing up in his face? No.
4. Another big game let down
Football is a booming business, an ever-increasing cash cow, but because of this, it often results in massively hyped up matches becoming nothing more than expensive player parades.
Television companies saturate their sports channels with coverage prior to the big games, whetting the appetite of fans, and promising fireworks.
Phrases like ‘Super Sunday’ and ‘the biggest game of the season’ are bandied about and in truth, these games often fail to live up to expectations.
Fans are promised the earth but managers are more concerned about outdoing their opposite number in the tactics stakes and that can often stifle player performance.
Monday was even more a case in point.
With Moyes taking charge at Old Trafford for the first time and with Mourinho back at Chelsea, there was more on the line than usual.
Fans always love the build-up but, to be honest, we can’t really be surprised or disappointed at the result. Part of us knows it’s almost inevitable.
Usually we don’t get big bonanza games like Monday night so early on in the season.
With it being so early, should we have expected more of a spectacle, with the crucial business end of the campaign months away?
On the other hand, players are still feeling their way into fitness and form and as we all know, it usually takes United a little longer to hit their stride at the beginning of the season. I think with the opening fixtures weighing heavily on his mind, it was always going to be a lot for United fans to expect Moyes to have a cavalier attitude going into such a fixture.
5. We need a bit of stardust
Moyes has said that he is trying desperately to finalise some transfer dealings behind the scenes, but that if he had to go with the current squad for the whole season, he’d be content.
I’m not sure if I quite believe that, but I can see where he’s coming from. We won the league title at a canter last season.
The likes of Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley, Rafael, Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck, Alexander Buttner, David de Gea, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans have either pocketed their first Premier League medal and/or have another year’s development under their belts.
We have the structure of a very decent squad.
Also, while I thought 0-0 was a fair result, I believe United were slightly the better side and showed more incentive to go for the three points.
We started with Van Persie, Welbeck and Rooney, while Chelsea were essentially striker-less.
Despite this, we were unable to unlock their stoic defence.
Apart from the fact that we failed to introduce our most creative substitute in Shinji Kagawa from the bench, which I’ve already discussed, I think our failure, so far, to land a major signing is something the crowd and the team is missing.
The game highlighted the need for Moyes to move into the market and shake things up a little.
As City discovered to their cost last season, failure to strengthen their 2011/12 title winning squad is essentially the reason for their failure to retain the Premier League trophy, and why they struggled so badly in Europe too.
Yes, we have a good squad, which is still developing and will improve, but if only to create a buzz around Old Trafford, provide a little more competition for places and in order to help us get back to being a force in Europe again, Moyes needs to bring in some big names.
Marouane Fellaini would be a good start but I think we need at least two big money signings, both to improve the team, and create an aura that Manchester United under Moyes are still going to be challenging for and winning silverware.
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