Man United 0-0 Chelsea: Assessing Wayne Rooney

Sports Mole reviews Wayne Rooney's performance during Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

With 74 minutes on the clock at Old Trafford yesterday evening, Wayne Rooney hustled Ramires down towards the right byline, before dispossessing the Chelsea midfielder with a sliding challenge and making a clearance.

"Rooney, Rooney" crowed the Manchester United faithful in reaction - a chant aimed in support of a player who would probably have preferred to have been Ramires's teammate rather than wearing a red shirt.

The hard facts are thus: Chelsea want to sign Rooney and from what we have been told, the feeling is mutual. David Moyes, though, like a stubborn father denying his child the latest gadget, has dug in his heels - the England international is not for sale. The Scot wants his former protege at Everton, unhappy or not, inside the tent spitting out, rather than vice-versa.

So, as the Premier League's fixtures computer had conveniently (it's not fixed, honest) thrown champions United and Chelsea together with the transfer window still open, it meant that a potentially farcical situation lay ahead.

Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney arrives at the Liberty stadium for the English Premier League football match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales, on August 17, 2013© Getty Images

How could United, a proud club, field someone that wanted to play for the opposition - a title rival no less? Someone that had a face on him like a wet weekend in Blackpool last time out against Swansea City, despite the fact that he had set up goals for Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck.

Rooney is not paid to smile, though. His lavish paycheck demands that he scores goals, create chances and works hard for his teammates. He did that at the Liberty Stadium as a second-half substitute, which in turn played him into Moyes's starting lineup last night.

His name was cheered as loud, if not louder, than any other United player when the team was announced. This is even after he had failed to acknowledge them, the only United player to do so, after the Swansea win. It took just three minutes for his name to ring around the ground, with Chelsea fans adding: "We'll see you next week."

On the pitch, his professionalism was there for all to see, although as many have rightly pointed out, when you earn £250,000 each week it shouldn't be difficult to look interested. This is modern-day football, though, and not all players would act in this way - see Gareth Bale's antics today for a prime example.

Rooney harried the likes of Ashley Cole into making mistakes, linked well with Van Persie and carved out the best opportunity of the game for Welbeck after the restart, only for the United youngster to lack composure.

Wayne Rooney performs a slide tackle on Ramires.© Getty Images

But it was the aforementioned incident with Ramires that brought supporters to their feet. It was a moment that suggested Rooney had accepted that he may not be getting that swanky pad down the King's Road, not for 12 months at least.

To put it simply, Rooney, who is arguably in the best shape physically that he has been for some time, lit up an otherwise dull, chess-like encounter. It was a performance that made him unsellable.

As former United full-back Gary Neville said in his punditry role with Sky Sports after the final whistle: "We just saw from Wayne Rooney one hell of a performance for his first 90 minutes of the season. It was the way he put the effort in tonight. There was once when he ran back to the touchline with Ramires and had the whole crowd up on their feet.

"He's a player that's important to them and we saw tonight the fans gave him a great reception. He didn't give the magic moment, the goal that would have crowned it off. But for a first 90 minutes after being out for such a long time, in a big game under big pressure and with everybody looking at him, that was a pretty good night for him and I think Manchester United will keep him.

"Wayne Rooney hasn't handed in a transfer request, he hasn't refused to play and in fact tonight has done everything but that. He's actually put in an incredible shift. All you can be is professional and the fact of the matter is that he respects the club's wishes. I don't think they're going to sell Wayne Rooney in this next week because it will make them look weak, and they're not weak."

Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole battle for possession.© Getty Images

Jose Mourinho, the shrewd operator that he is, knows this is the case and tried to raise the ante during his post-match press conference by urging Rooney to slap a transfer request onto Moyes's desk. What's more, he has also recently tried to force the 27-year-old into action by flirting with the idea of signing Samuel Eto'o.

With just under a week to go until the window slams shut (thankfully), the ball has been placed firmly in Rooney's court by Mourinho. United fans have set their stall out - they are willing to forgive and forget, again.

Assuming that he stays, Rooney must keep up his part of the bargain.

Chelsea's Oscar vies for the ball with Nemanja Vidic on August 26, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
3Liverpool23138254282647
4Chelsea23145441162547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
6Arsenal23116641301139
7Burnley239771920-134
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
9Everton2376102538-1327
10Watford2375113342-926
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
13Bournemouth2366112435-1124
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
17Southampton2349102334-1121
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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