Just some of the descriptions of this week/game against Chelsea and in essence they are right. With our lead at the top of the table cut down to just 4 points any stumble is ready to be capitalised on by Arsenal and back to back games against Chelsea and Liverpool may provide the ideal opportunity for Wenger’s boys to get over their Carling Cup heartache.
The game was originally meant to be played in December (incidentally it too would have been part of a tough 2 game sequence having faced Arsenal on the previous Monday) but a bit of snow saw the game called off so now we are lumbered with the inconvenience of the game now.
Rio Ferdinand is the major absentee in our starting line up meaning Chris Smalling will continue in his partnership with Nemanja Vidic. Ryan Giggs may return from the hamstring injury that saw him miss the Marseille game whilst Owen too may return from the groin injury that was said to have ended his United career. The long term injured like Park, Valencia (started training with the first team yesterday), Hargreaves and Anderson are all still out. Interestingly Rooney is available after the FA decided not to act on his off the ball incident with James McCarthy on Saturday.
Chelsea have no new injury worries and Ashley Cole will play following his gun totting in the wild west (of London). There is a chance we may even see Yury Zhirkov make his first league appearance after being out since November.
United come into the game off a 4-0 win over Wigan on Saturday and whilst we may not have been totally convincing have avoided defeat since the Wolves game having faced Man City, Crawley and Marseille. United’s record at the Bridge in the league is a cause of concern though and we haven’t won there since April 2002 in a 3-0 win with goals from Scholes, Van Nistelrooy and Solskjaer.
Chelsea’s form has been sketchy at best and have been stuttering along. In their last game they went beat Copenhagen in Denmark but prior to that they went out of the FA Cup on penalties to Everton and in the league were lucky to escape from Craven Cottage with a point after Clint Dempsey missed a last minute penalty.
United last 6: WLWWDW
Chelsea last 6: DWLDLW
Last meeting: Paul Scholes pulled the strings as United cruised to a 3-1 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield. Valencia gave Cole fits, Hernandez let us in on his ‘score by any means’ mantra after kicking the ball into his own face from where it flew into the net and Berbatov showed early signs of what was to come after wrapping up the game with the sweetest of chips.
This fixture last season: At the Bridge a much more offensively set up United team were unlucky to go down 1-0 after Darren Fletcher was wrongly pulled up for a foul on Ashley Cole and from the subsequent free kick John Terry was able to head home. Valencia could have had a penalty in the game too but Martin Atkinson saw otherwise.
This looks a tough one but I feel we can avoid defeat and at a stretch get a win. Chelsea haven’t looked good and whilst we haven’t been the best travellers, we can set up for function rather than flair and get something from the game.
Having Rooney available will be key and whilsy he hasn’t been at his best, he is definitely a big game player who is an asset rather than a liability. With the likes of Hernandez in reserve we have an ace in the hole too. May not be the most entertaining game but I expect to be pleased come the final whistle 1-1 (2-1 United at a push)