Remove the controversy, the scandal and the debate from Sunday's epic clash at Stamford Bridge and you had a Premier League encounter between Chelsea and Manchester United with the verve, ferocity and entertainment to match any in top flight history.

United's uncharacteristically quick start, following a run of conceding the first goal in eight of their 12 games this season, provided belated evidence of their credentials this term. But for the remainder, it was Chelsea's style and panache which threatened to sweep the 12-time Premier League champions aside, prior to the sending off of Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker's involvement rarely extended beyond controversy. A shocking challenge on Tom Cleverley in the first half, followed by an unfortunate dismissal after the interval; and yet his contribution in attack was a solitary effort on goal, albeit one which required a brilliant saved from David de Gea.

While many felt the rebirth of the 27-year-old would coincide with a genuine fight for the title from Chelsea, reasons for optimism come from behind the jaded forward. Torres is the true pantomime villain.

Juan Mata
Mata's brilliant free-kick put Chelsea back into the game against Manchester United.

The Blues' three musketeers In Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata made United toil at the Bridge with a combination of swift movement and devastating cutting edge. Coupled with Ramires' renewed thrust from midfield and John Obi Mikel's improved reliability, Chelsea produced a performance worthy of a title tip.

Not only did the double dismissal deprive the neutral of a thrilling climax, but it stalled a master class in attacking football from the hosts and a result which would have truly reflected their dominance. In some ways, the two sides aped each other's traditional game plan. United copied the template laid down by so many Chelsea sides in recent years, scoring early then keeping what they had, while the hosts threw caution to the wind like so many of Sir Alex Ferguson's former sides.

Your worry if you're Roberto Mancini or Ferguson is that either Torres finally rediscovers his mojo, a theory which is becoming increasingly diluted with every inept display, or that Roman Abramovich releases the funds for Atletico Madrid forward Radamel Falcao in the January transfer window.

Either way, it's unlikely such bad luck will befall another thrilling Chelsea display. Manchester City, who visit Di Matteo's side at the back end of November, might be wary of another whirlwind showing from the Premier League champions elect.