Manchester United could only manage a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea in the first blockbuster clash of the English Premier League season, but within moments of the final whistle was left feeling like it had secured a significant victory.
For even though the two title favorites battled to a stalemate at Old Trafford, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho appeared to admit defeat in his bid to sign United star Wayne Rooney, a "will-he, won't-he" potential transfer that has rumbled on for most of the summer.
Mourinho has already made two bids to secure Rooney's services, with the player having stated he wants to leave the Manchester club after falling behind Robin Van Persie in the pecking order.
But after Rooney produced a standout performance to earn himself the man-of-the-match award and was loudly cheered by the home crowd despite his wish to be transferred, Mourinho voiced fears that a possible deal is now dead.
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"We have to speak but I think that [United] must be a very special club," Mourinho said. "In every club in the world when the player wants to leave [the fans] don't support him. When the player wants to leave, they give him a hard time. And [here] they support him all the way. So I think this is a real special club with special fans, and I think probably now he decides he wants to stay. And if he makes that decision we will be the first to respect that and say it is over."
On this night, Rooney showed the kind of intensity you only see from a man with a point to prove, though it was hard to tell exactly which boss he was trying hardest to impress. His effort will not have escaped the notice of new United boss David Moyes, and on this evidence the 27-year-old won't be returning to the substitutes' bench any time soon.
If he stays.
Mourinho is a master of mind games, and his post-game comments do not necessarily guarantee that the fight for the England international's signature is over. However, the price tag might just have increased again, well beyond the latest rejected offer of around $40 million.
Small margins will likely determine the fate of this PL season, which is why any moves made or not made during the final week of the transfer window could be critical.
And while Monday's scoreless evening was the kind of result no neutral likes to see, it was an outcome that ensured the delicate balance of power at this early stage of the campaign remains intact.
Chelsea has played one game extra and holds a three-point advantage, one United will seek to erase this weekend when the London club misses a PL fixture due to their involvement in the European Super Cup.
United rarely drop points at home, meaning this draw probably suited Chelsea a little more, and Moyes appeared frustrated at the visitors' lack of attacking intent.
The biggest talking point came courtesy of a second-half penalty appeal, when Tom Cleverley's strike struck Chelsea's Frank Lampard on the arm, but Martin Atkinson waved play on. It was a borderline call, and one that only highlighted the shambolic and unpredictable nature of the regulation.
"I don't think the referees know what to do," Moyes said, referring to interpretation of the rule, which requires the contact between arm and ball to be "deliberate."
Ultimately, a share of the spoils was probably the correct outcome in any case, and this night gave away nothing in terms of which team has a better shot at being crowned champions.
The tag of favorites could still be shifted in either direction over the next week though, once the tense wrangling over Rooney's future is decided one way or another.
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