The England striker started at Old Trafford against the club who have twice tried to sign him this summer, and was at the heart of almost all of United’s best moves.
However, resolute defending from both teams prevented any real clear-cut chances, and the match was more notable for a series of penalty appeals – none of which inspired referee Martin Atkinson to point to the spot.
It was a night for centre-backs – United’s Nemanja Vidic and Blues skipper John Terry were the outstanding performers – and Jose Mourinho will have come away the happier of the two managers.
Chelsea move a point clear of Liverpool at the top of the early table having played three games, while David Moyes’ United rise to fourth.
With Mourinho having left Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku on the bench – along with Juan Mata – Chelsea struggled to hold the ball up in the first half.
The chances they created came courtesy of Oscar, who schemed intelligently in front of United’s four-man defence and twice brought straight-forward saves out of David de Gea.
United threatened more but with Terry producing a towering performance, sights of Petr Cech’s goal were equally rare.
Robin van Persie should have had a corner when his shot flicked off Branislav Ivanovic, then sent a header over before Tom Cleverley’s rising drive was watched on its way by Cech.
Ashley Cole and Antonio Valencia were both fortunate to escape bookings from Atkinson, who did show a yellow card to Kevin de Bruyne for a challenge on Robin van Persie that left the Chelsea man with a cut lip.
In the second half, Danny Welbeck curled an ambitious effort over before lifting a more delicate attempt just wide from Rooney’s short pass.
Both sides had desperate penalty appeals, United when Tom Cleverley’s shot struck Frank Lampard on the arm, Chelsea after Cole hit the deck under a perceived shirt-pull from Jones.
In the first instance, Lampard was far too close to Cleverley for Atkinson to award United anything. In the second, Cole was lucky not to get booked for diving, such was the minimal contact which preceded his fall.
The introduction of Torres on the hour mark failed to change much, so Rooney’s lung-bursting run back to a corner flag to rob Ramires brought a standing ovation.
It took Rooney some time to get forward after that but when he did, he brought a full length save out of Cech, before delivering the corner that Welbeck should have threatened with rather than screwing a header back where it had come from.
Van Persie had one last shot before an unsatisfactory game was brought to its conclusion.
Chelsea move on to face Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich for the UEFA Super Cup in Prague on Friday night – the Blues’ next Premier League game is not until September 14th, at Everton – while Moyes takes United to meet old rivals Liverpool on Sunday.