A draw in the Premier League is two dropped points. But it's also two dropped points for the opposition as well, and when they're at home and clear rivals for the title, that's a tradeoff I'm more than happy to make. Home games against your direct opposition are clear inflection points in a title race, a chance to gain ground or completely kill of your opposition.
They used to say that winning at home and drawing away was the path to the title. That's obviously not true these days -- a clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United will be looking to pick up maximum points on the road more often than not -- but there's still an important grain of truth in that aphorism: A 0-0 draw at Old Trafford between two competitive sides means that United have dropped more expected points than we did.
Jose Mourinho went for the draw, and duly got it. There weren't many talking points from the match, as far as excitement goes. David de Gea was forced into a few stops, but at no point did he have to pull off anything spectacular, and at the other end of the pitch Petr Cech was more or less comfortable as well.
It was completely unsurprising that the Blues lacked any sort of cutting edge, considering that Andre Schurrle started up front. Schurrle's played at centre forward before, of course, but this was the rough equivalent of playing Salomon Kalou as one's primary goalthreat. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were never seriously troubled by the former Bayer Leverkusen man, although he worked very hard.
The main story of the game was actually referee Martin Atkinson, whose catalogue of incompetence was extraordinary for both variety and artistic vision. Kevin de Bruyne was booked for taking an elbow to the face. Ashley Cole wasn't for scything down Robin van Persie, nor was he penalised for a dive in the United area. A handball appeal on Frank Lampard was ignored. Ashley Young was allowed to play football despite his various crimes against humanity. It was a tight game, of course, and those are hard to manage, but Atkinson's refereeing seemed arbitrary and failed to punish either side for making rash challenges.
The impressive aspect of the match, of course, was shutting Manchester United down. Getting a goalless draw at Old Trafford is no easy feat, and getting it with very little in the way of frights is even more surprising when one considers that the midfield pivot was Lampard and Ramires, who are excellent players but not necessarily ones you'd expect to control the match against Manchester United.
Robin van Persie was fairly anonymous, marshalled well by John Terry and Gary Cahill, and although Wayne Rooney worked exceptionally hard (impressing his future manager, maybe?) he by and large failed to link up effectively with his teammates.
The game opened up a little in the second half, but it was still mostly devoid of excitement. United were furious that Lampard's raised arm blocked Tom Cleverley's shot inside the box -- Chelsea got lucky there for the second week in a row -- but they were hardly putting Cech's area under siege.
Eventually, Schurrle was removed from the embarrassment of centre forward duty and replaced with Fernando Torres, who looked about as Torres as he ever has. But no harm was done by his introduction -- for all of his faults Torres is still a better pure striker than Schurrle is, and the German seemed much more happy with his new job of pinning Patrice Evra back on the Chelsea right.
Manchester United had no impact players on the bench, and although Mourinho had the likes of Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku at his disposal, he chose instead to see the game out, giving John Obi Mikel his first appearance of the season and then doing the same for Cesar Azpilicueta during injury time. That first move proved astute, with Mikel blocking van Persie's shot late on, an action that proved to be the last significant event in the match.
Yes, that was negative. Yes, we could have gone for three points. But Chelsea have navigated one of the two most difficult fixtures of the season without gifting the opposition a win, and, better yet, they looked assured and comfortable in so doing. United's record at Old Trafford last season was 16-0-3, and one of those losses (courtesy of Juan Mata) came after they'd already claimed the title.
This draw was an impressive result, even if it wasn't impressive viewing. At this stage of the season, I'm fine with a point away to a Manchester side. Onwards and upwards.
David Moyes still hasn't won at Old Trafford.