21/09/2008 15:55, Report by Ben Hibbs
Report: Chelsea 1 United 1
United clinched a valuable point at Stamford Bridge but, having taken the lead through Ji-sung Park, could have snatched all three points were it not for slack marking from a Chelsea free-kick, with Salomon Kalou snatching a late leveller.
The match followed a similar pattern to United’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in that the Reds took the lead before the home side became the more dominant force. However, this was an infinitely better performance than the one at Anfield. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have not yet reached top form, but with players gradually returning from injury and suspension, this must seen this as a point gained and the team can kick on from here.
Sir Alex chose not to use Cristiano Ronaldo from the start, he instead settled for a place on the bench, as did Carlos Tevez, who stepped aside for Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney to occupy United’s forward roles. Owen Hargreaves and Park started out wide, while Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes took on central midfield duties. There was also a huge gesture of faith in the burgeoning ability of Jonny Evans, who deputised brilliantly for the suspended Nemanja Vidic alongside Rio Ferdinand.
It’s been a smooth-running start to the season for Chelsea, but Luiz Felipe Scolari had the disruption of injury to Deco during the warm-up, and later Ricardo Carvalho during the game's early stages. Michael Ballack, who scored twice against United at Stamford Bridge in April, replaced Deco.
The Reds immediately took the game to Chelsea. Fletcher, United's top scorer this term, made one of his perfectly-timed runs into the area and saw a volley from Hargreaves’ cross go narrowly wide. Rooney went close two minutes later. After Cech’s failed clearance and Berbatov’s wayward lob, Rooney hooked the ball goalwards but it too went just wide. Then Chelsea threatened as Joe Cole got away with what appeared to be handball before hitting the side-netting with his shot from 20 yards.