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Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea: Stalemate at Old Trafford (Video)

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MANCHESTER — Chelsea and Manchester United played out a 0-0 draw on Monday, as both sides settled for a point in their fiercely contested Premier League clash.

The most anticipated game of the season so far took center stage at Old Trafford on a perfect August evening in front of 75,032 but both teams didn’t read the script. Swirling subplots involving Wayne Rooney, José Mourinho, transfer bids and much more dominated all the pregame chat but the main event didn’t live up to the billing.

In a cagey affair from start to finish, Chelsea set up to snatch a draw at the home of the reigning Champions and carried out their game plan superbly. And while their were brief moments of promise from David Moyes’ United side, his first home game in charge ended with a draw.

However plenty of question marks still remain over his sides title credentials as they failed to cause Chelsea any real problems throughout a tepid 90 minutes. The closest United came to scoring came was in the 77th minute as Wayne Rooney found space 30 yards out before unleashing a powerful effort that Peter Cech had to dive to his right and push it out for a corner.

(MORE: Wayne Rooney dazzles for Manchester United, is this the end of the saga?)

While Chelsea’s ultra-defensive setup limited them to goalscoring opportunities, they played patient soccer that allowed Brazilian midfielder Oscar to have a few half chances, but nothing more, on United’s goal.

All eyes were understandably on Rooney as the 27-year-old England international started for the first-time since the end of last season. And the man Chelsea want so badly showed exactly why he’s so coveted with a virtuoso display of hard work, skill and determination.

In an unprecedented move, Mourinho decided to name his starting lineup without a recognized forward as young German attacker Andre Schurrle played in the false no. 9 role, further adding to the mind games the “Special One” had been playing all week. And despite not playing an out-and-out forward, Mourinho’s men looked composed and patient when going forward throughout the first half.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho praises “kids” after defensive masterclass)

The games first chance came after 10 minutes, when a flowing Chelsea move saw the ball break to Oscar on the edge of the box. However the 21-year-old Brazilian could only smash his fizzing effort straight at David De Gea.

Following a cagey start the game became very disjointed in the first half but Manchester United eased into proceedings and gradually became a dominant force. Rooney looked rusty but a few nice touches to set up attacks were widely applauded by United’s fan as Chelsea’s supporters chanted “We’ll see you next week” in reference to his long-rumored transfer to Stamford Bridge.

source: Getty ImagesBut it was again Chelsea who looked lively on the break, as a move down their left flank in the 22nd minute found Oscar free on the edge of the box, but the Brazilian skewed his shot wide.

Buoyed by that chance United pressed up the pitch and almost got the games opener, as Ramires was caught in possession 30 yards from goal. Van Persie picked up the loose ball but his first touch took him away form goal, however he rounded Branislav Ivanovic on Chelsea’s right and rifled a shot towards goal that struck the side netting.

The game then threatened to boil over as Oscar was caught twice in quick succession on the halfway line, first by Antonio Valencia then by Rooney. And then Kevin De Bruyne was booked for taking out RVP when it looked as though the Dutchman had run into the Chelsea winger.

In the 39th minute Phil Jones settled the ball on United’s right before pulling back a cross that John Terry could only half clear as the ball dropped to Tom Cleverley 25 yards out but the England international smashed his left-footed effort over the bar.

To see out the half another chance fell to Oscar as another piece of patient build up play from Chelsea’s striker-less attack resulted in an opening. De Bruyne played a searching ball to Hazard on the edge of the back and his lay off found Oscar who once again hit his shot straight at De Gea.

After the break both teams remained edgy as United tried to force the issue. In the 49th minute, Red Devils left back Patrice Evra made a surging run forward and played a lovely one-two with Welbeck who back-heeled the ball into his path. But Chelsea’s Gary Cahill read the situation perfectly to shut Evra out and clear the ball.

In the 55th minute Rooney showed just why Chelsea want to sign him, as he wriggled free of Ramires’ challenge on the edge of the box before clipping a sublime short pass to Welbeck in the box. However Rooney’s England colleague fluffed his lines and scooped his effort horribly over the bar.

Chelsea defender Cahill then hit a piledriver from over 35 yards out in the 58th minute that tested De Gea’s handling as the midfield battle continued to rule supreme in the second half at Old Trafford.

(MORE: Jury still out on David Moyes at Manchester United)

A frantic few minutes then ensued as Schurrle was played through one-on-one but failed to beat the offside trap as he crashed his effort against the bar. In a bid to alter his sides fortunes Mourinho sent on Fernando Torres in the 59th minute for winger De Bruyne. Chelsea had held United for 60 minutes, now was their chance to attack. Yet that never materialized.

But in the games 61st minute United’s players, coaching staff and fans were incensed as Cleverley’s shot slammed into Frank Lampard in the box and seemed to strike the Chelsea’s midfielders hand. But referee Martin Atkinson waved play on. And then in the 71st minute Chelsea’s Ashley Cole screamed for a penalty as he nutmegged Jones and threw himself to the ground. Mourinho looked away in disgust but replays showed Cole was lucky to get away without a card for simulation.

The loudest roar of the night was reserved for Rooney as the United attacker tracked back the full-length of the pitch to halt Ramires’ right-flank run with a perfectly timed sliding tackle. Rooney’s sublime tackle sparked United into life as the England forward unleashed a rasping long-range effort in the 77th minute that Cech had to tip around the post.

After that the game petered out to a stalemate as both teams settled for a draw in the biggest game of the 2013-14 season so far. Honors even at Old Trafford but plenty of questions still remain as both sides start to mount their title challenge.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia (Young 65), Rooney, Welbeck (Giggs 77), Van Persie. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Buttner, Smalling, Anderson, Kagawa.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; De Bruyne (Torres 59), Oscar, Hazard (Azpilicueta 92); Schurrle (Mikel 86). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Essien, Mata, Lukaku.

VIDEO: Man United’s Marcus Rashford scores 3 minutes into his England debut

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 26:  Marcus Rashford of England arrives at the team hotel on the eve of their international friendly against Australia at the Hilton Gateshead on May 26, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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12 months ago Nine months ago Six months ago Three months ago, if anyone asked you, “who is Marcus Rashford?” you, just like me, probably would have responded as such: “I haven’t a clue. Should I know who he is?”

[ MORE: Man United confirm Mourinho as new manager ]

Stars are, of course, born overnight in the sports world, and the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, who spent 12 years with the club’s youth academy, is just the latest example. On Feb. 25, he made his first-team debut and scored twice in the Europa League. Three days later, he made his Premier League debut, again scoring twice.

[ MORE: Mourinho — “I prefer to forget the last three years at United” ]

Fast forward to Friday, and Rashford is a fully-fledged England international. In keeping up with the theme of his other debuts this season, he marked his international debut with a goal against Australia after just three minutes of play at the Stadium of Light.

It remains to be seen whether Rashford completes his hat trick of debut braces this year. We’ll update this post if he does so.

Croatia gets 2-match World Cup stadium ban for fascist chant

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 10:  Croatian fans light up flares during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C between Ireland and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) Croatia has been ordered to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated cases of fans chanting fascist slogans.

FIFA fined the Croatian soccer federation 150,000 Swiss francs ($151,000), and ordered the stadium bans to take effect when Croatia hosts Turkey on Sept. 5 and Finland on Oct. 9.

Chile was also ordered to play one World Cup qualifier away from its national stadium over fans chanting anti-gay insults, FIFA said in disciplinary rulings announced Friday. FIFA also fined five Latin American soccer federations for “discriminatory and unsporting conduct by fans,” including anti-gay insults, at World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview | Castillo replaces Chandler ]

Croatia fans were guilty of discriminatory chants at friendlies against Israel and Hungary in March, FIFA said.

Croatia “had already been sanctioned for similar incidents by FIFA and UEFA” in previous seasons, the world soccer body said.

Before the 2014 World Cup, FIFA banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches for leading fans in a World War II-era chant used by the country’s then-puppet regime.

After incidents of anti-gay chants at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has cracked down on insults aimed by Latin American fans at players on rival teams.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Chile cannot use its national stadium when it hosts Bolivia on Sept. 6 and must pay a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,250). A second stadium-ban sanction was deferred for a two-year probationary period.

In other sanctions for soccer federations, FIFA fined Honduras 40,000 Swiss francs ($40,300), Mexico and El Salvador 35,000 Swiss francs ($35,275) each, Paraguay 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150), and Peru 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,115).

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.