John Hartson watched Stoke City ease to a 4-3 victory over Everton ahead of Monday evening’s clash at Old Trafford. The former Arsenal striker highlighted Stoke as an example of a team willing to give everything for their manager [Mark Hughes]: “Stoke would run all day for Mark Hughes. Man Utd won’t play for Van Gaal”. However, the United squad did their utmost to dispel such a claim with an outstanding first-half performance. The Red Devils supporters didn’t have to chant “attack, attack” as the home side pushed forward and hit the woodwork twice in the opening 45 minutes. Even Paul Scholes managed to begrudgingly admit that United had produced their best football of the season. It was a statement of the players’ continued faith in Van Gaal.
Wayne Rooney has faced questions about his career after a subdued start to the season. Some have suggested that the United captain was past his peak, whilst others accused Rooney of not trying for the manager. But like United, the England skipper produced one of his best performances of the past six or eight months against Chelsea. Rooney was full of energy as he proved there is life in the ‘old’ legs, yet. The United striker was a threat inside the area and looked to bully Chelsea’s under-performing centre-halves, and a rasping first-time strike required a good save from Thibaut Courtois. All that was missing from Rooney’s performance was a goal as he missed a late chance to win the game for the hosts. Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson’s presence in the stands helped.
While a 0-0 draw suggests a dour game between the two Premier League giants, David De Gea and Courtois were the two standout players at Old Trafford and responsible for keeping the Monday evening clash goalless. De Gea was alert in the opening 10 minutes to push John Terry’s header over the cross from a set-piece. The club’s reigning player of the year parried Pedro Rodriguez’s powerful shot wide before leaping to his feet to deny Cesar Azpilicueta in the follow-up. Not to be outdone by the Premier League’s best goalkeeper, Courtois somehow managed to deny Ander Herrera with the goal at the midfielder’s mercy.
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