When Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal in 97 he brought something different and new to the Premiership as it was known back then. A new style of play, a new mentality and more importantly a winning team. One man didn’t like it and began a rivalry using mind games and media. The competition between Wenger and Ferguson began a new era of using the media to get one over on each other. It was a never ending battle for all to see. Both had winning teams and both had a champion boxer type mentality, each claiming that they were the best. Some would refer it to an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force. Sadly, like Wenger’s team in recent years, that rivalry petered out to emptiness.
Ferguson has used his mind games on other mangers throughout the years but none have ever had the flair that there was between Wenger and himself. Either the team never consistently challenged Ferguson for the title or the manager was never long enough in the job to really rustle the feathers. However last night may just have seen a new rivalry begin, both on the pitch and off it in the media when David Moyes and Jose Mourinho met for the first time.
This game was started long before the big encounter. Since Mourinho took over for his second spell at Chelsea he has been none stop in the papers talking about Man United and in particular Wayne Rooney. Mourinho has been using Rooney as a tool in the media to try and upset and test the resolve of the new Man United manager of which all eyes have been watching to see his reaction. Since taking over at United, Moyes has seen his team drop to third favourite to retain the title as a result of him coming up from what is seen as a weaker team, without a trophy in his bag or experience in Europe.
Mourinho then set out a test to see what the Old Trafford reaction would be. He placed a bid for the unsettled Rooney and Moyes had to react. Was he going to sell one of the best players in the team to a rival in his first year? Of course not. Moyes couldn’t be seen to show weakness to other clubs by giving in to demands. Moyes had a lot of pressure on his shoulder to prove that just because he had taken over didn’t mean that United were now a weaker team than when Ferguson was there. Had Ferguson been in charge you would only imagine that the bid would have been laughed off and the email thrown in the bin whilst he looks to improve his own squad.
Mourinho knew that the media would go into a frenzy, consistently asking Moyes at every opportunity about Rooney’s future at the club. At least until the end of the transfer window any way. Mourinho also gave Moyes another problem. He had an unsettled Rooney on his team. So how would he be able to handle a big name player who wanted to leave, especially after their recent history. Would he play him or leave him on the bench to stew while he comes around to the idea that he wouldn’t be sold to Chelsea.
Moyes however wasn’t going to lie down. He made his own snipes in the media about Mourinho being able to change fixtures to suit his team’s Super Cup endeavours against Munich next Friday. The next step was his first game of the season. To go to Swansea, win and win well was crucial and bringing on Rooney who set up a couple if goals made it look like he was more than ready to ignore on transfer talk.
And so the battle than was to ensue it at Old Trafford. All eyes were certainly on the outcome of this massive early season clash. It wasn’t about the points this early in the season but more about who could come out on top. The winner was no doubt to take a big advantage. Both had points to prove. Mourinho wanted to be top dog in the Premier League and Moyes didn’t want to be seen as a pushover. An unstoppable force meets and immovable object you might say. We have seen this all before.
Mourinho approached that game with a lot of caution. He started the game without a recognised striker in the starting eleven. Leaving Torres and Lukaku on the bench and favoured Schurrie, a winger, up front instead. That tells you something. Mourinho didn’t know how to approach the game and went for the safe bet instead. At Everton, Moyes was easily out classed but at United it was going to be a different story and both sets of players were on very equal par.
The first half was a tight affair and it was to be expected. Both teams could punish each other if given the chance. Van Persie proved that when he got inside the box and was able to turn and shoot ona penny only to see his shot hit the side netting. After that both sides were reduced to shots from outside the box. Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill both saw there long range efforts comfortably picked up but the goalkeepers. End the end the game finish a scoreless draw and it was a fair result. So no winners as of yet but a result that suits both as not to give away weakness so early.
Mourinho, however wasn’t finished yet. In his post match interview he couldn’t help but say he was going to bid for Rooney again but he wanted to hear the players opinion on the matter. If he chose to stay, then Chelsea would accept his decision and move on. Again using the media to talk to Rooney.
So with the second round now over and no clear victor as yet, the next seven days will provide the platform for round two. Will Rooney stay or go. Will Moyes be able to prove he is the real deal and the boss at United and keep his star striker at the club. Rooney played very well against Chelsea in the match and you have to wonder weather it was Moyes bringing the best out of him or Rooney showing off to Chelsea as a ‘look at me and what I can do, now come get me’. The next week will certainly settle a lot.
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