Manchester United's dominance, built on the platform of Wayne Rooney's industry, left Chelsea looking decidedly sluggish by comparison. The home side had brief flurries of urgency before half-time and at the end of the game but generally lacked the verve and dynamism to disturb Manchester United's rhythm.
The visitors were solid, assured and broke quickly. United comfortably covered any threat from Chelsea's full-backs breaking forward and most importantly held sway in midfield, where Rooney slipped back smoothly to help Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick.
Rooney displayed physical and moral courage. He resisted tackles galore and no little terrace abuse. Concentrating on his game, he is still a diamond with rough edges but a man of great appetite for football.
When United play 4-4-2 with Rooney as the second striker, his midfielders must smile in appreciation of his assistance. He gives them so much support and makes their jobs easier when their opponents have possession. Here Carrick and Giggs, supported by Rooney, formed a central trio when Chelsea started to build attack (see diagram).
In the first half Chelsea were their own worst enemies, passing haphazardly and sideways, with José Bosingwa crossing poorly on the few occasions he did manage to get forward. They were unable to force the game and, in truth, Chelsea narrow the field whereas the more adventurous United open the game out with greater width.
Rooney, playing with immense energy throughout, consistently dropped off and found space to initiate counterattacks. With Antonio Valencia wide on the right and stifling Ashley Cole's ability to make forward runs, United held sway.
Ramires, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard needed to dominate but they were unable to command the ball. They were persistently frustrated by the deepest man, Carrick, even before Giggs and Rooney came back as reinforcements to help. Those three were also supplemented by Park Ji-sung, who is such a willing grafter.
Chelsea were pedestrian in approach; Fernando Torres, though initially threatening, became detached from his forward partner Didier Drogba and as a pair they lacked workrate.
Carrick's superb 60-yard pass caught Bosingwa unawares and Giggs stole behind and invited Rooney to score a classic and vital goal. Carrick demonstrated here that he has regained his confidence in a performance of high consistency. By bringing on Nani for Rafael da Silva and with Valencia retreating to right-back, Sir Alex Ferguson showed his confidence, too.
United continued to be more vibrant and pacey. Even though Rooney worked back so diligently he still combined well with Javier Hernández. They appear to have a good chemistry and will get even better together. By contrast it would appear that Torres faces a difficult task to combine with the individualistic Drogba. This is just one of the problems Chelsea have to solve. In this game United's centre-backs, Nemanja Vidic and the returning Rio Ferdinand were well in control of the pair.
Chelsea also needed a wide man, a dribbler, but were narrow and sluggish. Little wonder they struggled.