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Tactical stalemate kicks Moyes’ Old Trafford reign off in promising style

Rooney and Lampard Aug 13Today was a cagey and intelligent game of chess that played itself into an unfortunate but deserved draw. Despite the hard work and highly professional effort by Wayne Rooney United could not find that magical moment in the box that would break the deadlock and to be honest, both clubs were reduced to nothing more than half chances and hand ball let offs for Chelsea. Two blatant hand balls in the box were not called against Chelsea and that just seems typical considering I cannot remember the last time Chelsea have ever given up a hand ball penalty, especially to United. I’m sure they have but they never get their just punishment. Lampard’s handball especially was blatantly awful and unfortunately unjust. As for the match as a whole, let me call this segment the good, the bad and the ugly.


How better to begin than to stand up and give kudos and an “A” for effort to Wayne Rooney. Today Wazza answered a lot of his critics when it comes to his professionalism and commitment while he is a United player. I still don’t think he is happy to be here but he was at least determined to give a good accounting of himself if not for his club, then for Jose Mourinho. This in a sense was an audition for both clubs. Rooney showed some pride and through his performance gave something back to the club that has been so good to him for almost ten years. Whether he stays or not, he did two things that were vital for United. First he showed that irregardless of everything off the pitch, he is committed to give his all in games and secondly, if he still wants a move to Chelsea, well he just justified a reason for United to demand a Hell of a lot more than 25 million quid for him. He may not have scored a goal but he was enthusiastic, tenacious and totally committed on and off the ball all evening and outside of a few stray passes was for me the man of the match. Well done Wayne. I’m calling off my attack dogs for now.

As for the other positives, I thought the club’s work ethic was very strong. Committed to every ball and tackle and never gave Chelsea an inch in our third of the pitch. Our midfield controlled the match and made Chelsea’s all-star midfield look rather pedestrian for the first 70 minutes. They didn’t create much but defensively they were very good, especially Carrick. Our back four was also sublime and quite exceptional throughout the match. Jones did well in his marking duties and Rio, Vidic and Evra all turned back the club to give outstanding defensive performances that gave Chelsea nothing more than speculative half chances that seemed to always go right straight to David De Gea who for the most part was steady but not really tested severely.

As for David Moyes, the grade for today is a “B+”. Did he out coach Mourinho? Well many might think he did although I don’t. Moyes by no means lost the confrontation but Mourinho came to this match with conservative notions and considering United also never really created much in term of full chances, he has to be considered successful in his intent. Moyes did however do a great job in preparing the club tactically and made sure that the players played their roles defensively while keeping their shape. Still the club has a lot of work to do to find that creative edge in the attacking third against stiff competition. This was a home game after all and so a little more attacking pressure would have been expected. David Moyes showed me that he belongs. United doesn’t miss a thing with him in charge. What they do miss are the same things they were missing with Fergie but more on that later. The Chess match was a draw but if I were scoring it like a boxing match, I’d call it 55-45 for United. They were for me the better and hungrier team on the night.

The players for me who get the highest grades out of ten tonight are as follows; Rooney 8/10, Evra 8/10, Vidic 8/10 Carrick 8/10. None of them created any goals but their overall player and commitment was excellent. I also give high marks but no grade to Ashley Cole simply because he never played enough minutes. He showed a great commitment to force the play, attack his marker and delivered a couple of sublime crosses that were very close calls. For me he was a mini revelation because when he came into the game, I honestly expected nothing. He impressed me enough to make me wonder if he shouldn’t get the start at RMF next match.


Martin Atkinson v Chelsea Aug 13The performance of the team was quite good and the work ethic was outstanding but there were still some bad moments and performances that need to be looked at. First off let me say that the Referee Martin Atkinson was tonight at least nothing short of a muppet. Too many yellow card style fouls not punished, too many yellows given for nothing and four handballs by Chelsea not called while the one he did call wasn’t. Nothing cheeses my hide more than a bad referee. And like I said before, the cheaters of Chelsea, and they are legendary, always seem to get away with murder when playing top teams.

I will not get dug in and discuss the performances that disappointed me. For me the worst player on the pitch for both clubs was Danny Welbeck. Unfortunately tonight Danny reverted to the Welbeck I had often screamed at Fergie to sell off for a few Big Macs and some curly fries. His lackadaisical dilly-dallying on the ball is infuriating and his unwillingness to get dirty and make a tackle also annoys me. But that open sitting header opportunity he had late in the match that he never even got close to the goal was just embarrassing not to mention the setup from Wayne in the box earlier that he floated over the bar. In this game he reverted to the lad who seems to be half asleep at the wheel and his finishing was comical. Just one game so I am not going to panic but Danny needs to show up better for big matches like this and not just against the Wigan’s and Swansea’s of the world. And could people please tell me where is Chicharito? Seriously.

Other disappointments for me were Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley. Cleverley did his job defensively so he was not totally but he is lacking confidence on the ball. On two occasions he had the ball just outside of the box and didn’t even take a look at a shot nor did he spot two players open for a through ball. Instead he one touched the ball to safe spot as if it were on fire. In fact, all game long the ball was like a hot potato to him and he wanted nothing to do with it. When he finally had a chance to shoot and he took it, he made a meal of a great chance. I don’t want to be negative but he was a perfect example of that one missing ingredient in our midfield, polished offensive skills with a confidence to distribute bravely. Still, I was glad Moyes was brave enough to start him and help him build his confidence instead of starting Giggs.

Tony Valencia on the other hand infuriated me all night the way Welbeck did. There were times he ran hard and times he seemed to static but his passes and deliveries into the box were horrible, even on counters where we caught Chelsea thin. He never delivered a quality cross all evening and Ashley Young delivered two in his first few minutes on the pitch. Valencia also seems to have lost a step or that final burst to get past a marker, and when he does, he just wastes the finishing ball. I think now is the time to bloody Wilfried Zaha. He might not track back as well as Tony but I think he offers much more in the attacking zone.

One other bad moment in the match where we got away with one was when Schurlle hit the crossbar but was deemed offside. On that play Evra made his one blunder for the evening getting caught up high and tight.


What can I say, there wasn’t anything ugly other than Atkinson’s Muppet show. Sure Welbeck and Valencia sucked but they were far from ugly.

Rooney subbed v Chelsea Aug 13Inclosing, I have to say that the match was disappointing in that there were no goals but the result was fair and for David Moyes, it was encouraging because he showed that in managing a very big side, he could match chess move with chess move against a great manager like Jose Mourinho. In fairness to Mourinho, it is not easy to play attacking football without a true striker and all I can say is I hope that continues for you Jose. We weren’t perfect. As usual we were too cute and hesitant in the attacking zone, lacked really good movement off the ball, our wingers sucked and we never created enough solid scoring chances but we still played well because we were organized, solid in defence and stuck in and ready to tackle and hustle all game. Well done Dave. Not a win but a moral victory nonetheless. Keep up the solid work and hopefully you will shock me and pull a rabbit or two out of your hat before the transfer window closes to really solidify and improve this hard working and efficient team you are developing.



  1. jos

    27 August 2013 at 09:17

    surely this is Grognard’s work 🙂

    cant dispute anything though.

  2. BigRed

    27 August 2013 at 11:21

    Promising style?
    What style?
    Our new super slow tempo, walking wingers, side ways and backwards passes?
    Yes, very stylish.

    • Grognard

      27 August 2013 at 19:44

      @BigRed: I was referring to our pressing game and our tenacity. The game was dull and both teams played chess but you have to look at the little things. The team was well organized, passionate and tenacious, rather than the club under Fergie that would sag back in that loose zone until they were in their own third before pressuring opponents. And look at the improvement of the back four. Look at how organized they are and how good Evra was last night. I saw a lot to be encouraged about. The style was more attitude and work ethic, not that we never had it before, but we just seem a little more refined defensively.

  3. manutdrox

    27 August 2013 at 11:55

    “I also give high marks but no grade to Ashley Cole simply because he never played enough minutes”…proof read, should be ashley young i guess.

    • Grognard

      27 August 2013 at 19:45

      @manutdrox: You mean Ashley Young. Cole actually played the whole game. 😉 😉 😀

  4. The_Philosopher

    27 August 2013 at 13:42

    The game was a good one.

    We played well albeit cautiously. Moyes has done well to come away from this one undefeated and is weathering the early storm very well. We still have Liverpool and City to play but an impressive win at Swansea and keep Chelsea at bay last night is a good start to what is a testing opening sequence of games.

    If we can take maximum points from Liverpool and Crystal Palace then another stalemate at the Etihad would be good going early on for the new manager.

    I understand Moyes’ selection of Valencia ahead of Zaha, who played really well in pre-season. Valencia is the ranking officer on the right flank and Moyes couldn’t drop him without giving him a good run. Same goes for Young. Ashley played ahead of Zaha yesterday on the right because, like Valencia, he has more experience and is higher up the pecking order. Zaha will have to stay sharp and take his chances when he gets them before he can hope to shift the hierarchy.

    I understand, though, that Moyes as a new manager cannot drop senior players without giving them a proper run in the squad regardless of how amazing Zaha has been.

    After the City game, however, I hope Moyes will have seen enough of Young and Valencia to make a decision.

    Also after the City game, assuming our title hopes are still intact, I hope Moyes will then have the courage to gamble on Zaha starting games again as we embark on our title quest facing the rest of the league.

    With regards to THE GOOD. I agree that Rooney played really well and has also mad it hard for United fans to hate him with a performance like that.

    If he can play like that every single game, whether he starts it or comes off the bench, without complaining I would be happy to keep him.

    But I’m kind of holding my breathe until his next little tantrum.

    Valencia played very well. I was so impressed with his energy and fight. He has definately lost a bit of pace (Ashley Cole out ran him) but he more than made up for his lack of pace with superb work ethic and commitment.

    Zaha would have offered us more of threat down the right wing but I agree with Moyes’ choice to go for experience in a game like this.

    Ashley Young played well when he came on. But he was prancing around like a fairy again everytime anyone got in to make a tackle. One overly dramatised instance where he tumbled head over heels made me sick and I didn’t actually care how well he was playing I just wanted him out. Out of United please. Thank you very much.

    I was relieved to see Giggs not in the starting 11.

    I haven’t seen Chicharito or heard anythign about him. So I’m starting to wonder now as well. I hope its not bad news whatever it is.

    The only BAD for me was the fact that Moyes was playing it so safe. But thats not really a bad because he has to keep things together in the early stages of the season. I understand that.

    But when we take on Liverpool and Palace I hope he can give the likes of Zaha and Kagawa a go to try liven up our attack.

    Shinji Kagawa is going to have to compete for Young’s left wing spot while Rooney is around. I’m heart broken for Shinji though He is a top no.10 but he isn’t gonna get a chance because Rooney is going to hog the show yet again. And Rooney isn’t that great at no.10. He is decent. Kagawa can do about the same and even better than Rooney playing behind the striker. The only thing Rooney has over Kagawa is his imposing presence.

    Tom Cleverley didn’t have the best of games. Kagawa should be allowed to perhaps take up Cleverley’s place. But its good for CLeverley to be gaining experience in big games.

    But I have to admit Kagawa has not proven himself yet in the English game.

    Evra always makes defensive blunders. It wasn’t just the one last night. Against Swansea he was also caught out of position as well. Evra is fading.

    All in all it was a good game.

    We managed to avaoid defeat against one of our direct title rivals. Now its to the City game.

    IF we can avoid defeat at the Ethihad then we can win the league playing like this. . .

    • jos

      27 August 2013 at 14:05

      @The_Philosopher: chicharito is injured. So are Nani and Rafael.

    • jos

      27 August 2013 at 14:07

      @The_Philosopher: Also last season (when we won the league by 10 pts) we had lost this game!!!

      we should beat Liverpool really. Theres no Suarez and rest of their team is poor. Theres no excuse really.

      • The_Philosopher

        27 August 2013 at 15:23

        @jos: I totally agree with that. Without Suarez Liverpool aren’t on our level.

        We have to beat them.

        Also City are without Kompany. So hopefully we can capitalise on that.

        • Grognard

          27 August 2013 at 19:50

          @The_Philosopher: They are struggling t score goals against minnows and so we should stomp them into oblivion but football is a funny game. A rivalry always brings the best out of the inferior side too. Still, we should prevail. In the past we would find a way to squeak out a win by the skin of our teeth but with Moyes I am hoping for more of a message of intent and 90 minutes of football instead of the last 15. Lets show some killer instinct and punt them all over the pitch 3-0 or 4-0.

  5. the kaizer

    28 August 2013 at 23:22

    please can we give kagawa regular game time

    • JARaven

      29 August 2013 at 02:00

      @the kaizer: agree with you. has kagawa played as deep as Cleverly at Dortmund? i prefer him behind the striker but he is talented and energetic enough to play in Cleverly’s spot. some concern he would get overrun though

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