Neither side were able to hit their usual stride in the early stages, and it was nearly 20 minutes before the first chance fell to Didier Drogba, whose rasping shot from inside the area was turned over the top by Edwin van der Sar.
The match clearly needed a goal to spark into life and Rooney duly provided it. Michael Carrick’s superb crossfield ball found Giggs and the 37-year-old Welshman’s first touch took him straight past José Bosingwa before his cut-back picked out Rooney for a first-time finish that flew in off the post.
A goal down, Chelsea showed more urgency going forward but the task of finding a way through United’s well-organised defence proved no easier. Bosingwa managed to slide a great ball across the face of the United goal, but Drogba was unable to make contact, while United always looked dangerous on the break.
A curling ball from Rooney only just eluded Javier Hernández as United came close to a second, before riding their luck at the other end just before the break. A cross from Drogba towards Torres ended up hitting the far post and Lampard’s scuffed flick at the rebound was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra.
Chelsea’s luck failed to improve after the restart, with Drogba sending a bicycle kick wide of the mark and his team-mates toiling to create clear-cut chances. Michael Essien met Nemanja Vidić’s headed clearance with a volley from the edge of the area that fizzed just wide but, after 70 minutes, Carlo Ancelotti had seen enough.
Drogba and Yuri Zhirkov were replaced by Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, while the decision to leave Torres on nearly paid quick dividends when the Spain striker’s goal-bound header drew a brilliant, fingertip save from Van der Sar.
Lampard later drilled a low free-kick at United’s Dutch keeper, who was faultless as the Blues peppered his goal with shots in the closing stages, doing just what was needed to keep the Premier League rivals in the driving seat before they meet again in six days’ time.
The big controversy took place two minutes from team when Evra appeared to pull down Ramires in the box, but the Spanish referee waved away Chelsea’s appeals. A decision that I sure Chelsea fans will be talking about for days.