In a match that harkened back to the Manchester Untied vs. Chelsea clashes of nearly a decade ago, the two clubs played to an ugly scoreless draw at Old Trafford that was short on chances, rhythm and anything that would resemble entertainment. That proved just fine for the Blues, who came away with an away draw in the first major match of the Premier League season, while David Moyes had to settle for just a point in his first home match in charge of the Red Devils.
The first half was completely devoid of entertainment, as speculative shots from distance that slowly rolled to the goalkeepers marked the best chances at goal for both sides.
Martin Atkinson was as ineffective as both attacks, failing to show yellow cards for much of the first half despite some cynical and dangerous tackles. When he finally did caution someone, it was Kevin De Bruyne who was punished, and for a soft foul that saw him get elbowed in the face.
Things livened up in the second half, with both teams getting a decent chance or two, even if the general quality of play improved only slightly. The passing was still shoddy and the creativity absent, but at least the goalkeepers came to the match.
Gary Cahill had the first chance of note just before the hour mark when he hit a blistering shot from 30 yards out. This one actually managed to get off the ground and forced de Gea into a decent save.
United had the best chance to score, and probably would have had it not been for the shoddy decision-making of Atkinson. Tom Cleverley hit a vicious volley from 18 yards that clearly stuck Frank Lampard in the arm. The Chelsea midfielder didn't have much of a chance to react, with the shot being hit two yards in front of him, but his arm was outstretched and he should have conceded a penalty, only Atkinson didn't see it that way and waved play on.
Chelsea had a penalty shot of their own, albeit a much weaker one. Ashley Cole made a long run forward, slaloming his way into the box, where he went to ground, but his fall was his own doing. It was a clear dive and Atkinson was right on the spot to deny him a spot kick.
The last 20 minutes proved to be the most open, but neither team managed a goal. Wayne Rooney, who started despite Chelsea's repeated bids for him, had a good shot from distance that forced Petr Cech into action, while United had another penalty shout denied, albeit this time correctly as John Obi Mikel made a fine block.
In the end, both teams struggled in the midfield and were short on chances as a result. That's just fine for Jose Mourinho, who showed that his new Chelsea team can be much like his old one -- pragmatic, if negative, and capable of picking up a valuable point away from Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Cleverley, Carrick, Welbeck (Giggs 78'), Rooney, Valencia (Young 66'), van Persie.
Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic, Ramires, Lampard, Hazard (Azpilicueta 90+4'), Oscar, De Bruyne (Torres 60'), Schurrle (Mikel 87').