Wayne Rooney (Photo: Reuters)
David Moyes began his first home match in charge of the champions by naming Chelsea target Rooney in his starting line-up, giving a clear message that his club's message of 'he is not for sale' still stood after two failed bids for the striker.
Chances for both sides were few and far between on a warm evening at Old Trafford as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's decision to play much of the match without a recognised striker had little attacking impact and his defence held firm.
Rooney, in the unusual position of being cheered by both sets of fans, had a decent chance in the second half when his right-footed drive forced Petr Cech to dive to his right but the two title hopefuls were left to share the points.
"It was a tight game," Moyes, who received a warm reception from the Old Trafford crowd before taking his seat in the dugout opposite the stand that bears the name in big letters of his illustrious predecessor Alex Ferguson, told a news conference.
"We just didn't quite have the final cross, the final pass tonight but I thought we played very well."
The result means United have started their campaign with four points from a possible six, while Chelsea have made it seven from nine as the clubs' new managers enjoy unbeaten starts to the season.
"I think it's a fair point," Mourinho said.
"Nobody deserved to lose...nobody was better than the opponents to deserve a clear victory. For us, after two home victories to come to the champions in their first match at home, to get a point I think it's fine, it's positive."
Much of the pre-match buildup had focused on Chelsea's so far unsuccessful attempts to lure United striker Rooney to Stamford Bridge and it was this sub plot that dominated a match which was not the best advertisement for the English top flight.
Mourinho's decision to start without a recognised striker could have been a message to Rooney that the place was his for the taking and as the player listened to "Rooney, Rooney" chants from his own fans and "Wayne Rooney, we'll sign you next week" from Chelsea's, the match trundled along in the background.
The visitors' only real first-half chance fell to Oscar who shot straight at keeper David de Gea early on, while at the other end Robin van Persie slammed a shot into the side netting and Rooney sent a tame effort into the arms of Petr Cech.
The two teams are likely to be embroiled in the title fight later in the season. But they were meeting far too early in the fixtures list for the match to be decisive and it showed as both sides struggled to keep possession or muster meaningful shots.
Which side Rooney will be playing for by the time the two teams meet again remains to be seen after the England forward gave a reasonable account of himself, a neat touch here and there and some good distribution.
Mourinho had plumped for Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard as his attacking force, and even without reading the frantic scribbling in the notebook he keeps in his top pocket it was clear the set-up was not working.
The Portuguese finally brought on a striker on the hour mark, sending on Fernando Torres for De Bruyne, but it did not make much difference with Rooney ultimately showing glimpses of why he might be a better prospect up front for the London team.
Rooney had a chance to snatch a winner midway through the second half when his right-footed shot from outside the box was put behind by Cech for a corner and he also attempted an acrobatic volley in stoppage time.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter @AO_Sportsand on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)