Getting his first start of the season for Manchester United, Wayne Rooney did show how valuable he is to the team thanks to his ability to play several roles during the 90 minutes (although it wasn’t enough for a satisfying result). Too bad his manager wasn’t brave enough to make some attacking changes to actually make a difference.
Rooney has been one of the most talked about figures in football this summer, which means he isn’t exactly settled in the place he’s now. David Moyes called him a second-option, and by that made sure that he’ll never hear the end of the transfer saga until the window closes. He finally gave Rooney a start, hoping to quiet the noise before a match that required absolute focus.
But Manchester United showed everyone that a quality side is something that will give them trouble this year, if the wins over Swansea and Wigan made people forget. Robin van Persie is a world class striker, but too much tactics and not enough talent made them look far from dangerous, and unable to break the shield Chelsea built in the middle of the pitch, hoping to come away with the 0-0 draw.
Antonio Valencia had one of his better matches in a very long time, but failed to provide accurate crossing. All of the hard work down the flank to help Phil Jones defensively doesn’t really matter when you’re such a primary part of a subdued attacking line, and almost every decision made in the final third of the pitch results in turning the ball over.
Cleverley was another player who was rather impressive thanks to his work rate and effort, but once again, it didn’t show on the scoreboard. Same could go for Wayne Rooney, who might have started in somewhat of an attacking midfielder role but boosted by the love from both sets of fans put on an incredible display of passion and effort that amounted to some impressive tackling and high numbers on the distance-measure, but not much else.
Moyes sticks with Danny Welbeck, because few strikers in Europe mesh well with anyone you put next to them while not really minding doing tactical work, which is bothering defensive midfielders and hounding players who try to build attacks. Welbeck does his defensive job well, but it leaves almost nothing for when United need him to do something with the ball.
The substitutions? Moyes wasn’t here to win the match. He was there not to lose it. Ryan Giggs on for Danny Welbeck? Ashley Young, who hasn’t played in months, for Antonio Valencia? He didn’t have an actual striker on the bench, but it’s hard to understand how Shinji Kagawa wasn’t used in the match, which would have made Rooney a more forward player.
This is only a draw, and we’re only 9 days into the new season. These points won’t determine where the title will end up. But David Moyes needs to make use of his best players, even if it means a bit more pressure on his defense, which is looking confident and solid early on. Otherwise, the ongoing parade of quality teams with better managers than himself will be too much to handle.