I guess it is part and parcel of being a United fan but it does nothing for the nerves and of all the times we have said it this season I think no time has been bigger than today’s game.
A few weeks ago Chelsea were a non factor but circumstances have conspired to let them back into the title race and if by some miracle if they manage to win tomorrow, it will be a remarkable turn around for Ancelotti’s team but also a huge disaster for United.
Last weekend was a massive turning point in that Chelsea benefitted from 2 big decisions from officials against Spurs whilst we lost to Arsenal at the Emirates so now as we go head to head at Old Trafford it is a game that is for all the chips as the victor is likely to go on and win the league. Of course it could be a draw and this would benefit United but I think both teams realise a win is much more beneficial and will go for the 3 points.
Last season at Old Trafford Chelsea emerged victorious amidst controversy as Didier Drogba’s offside effort proved the winner and this wasn’t the first time they have got the rub of the green against us. In March Sir Alex Ferguson was banned for 5 games and fined after his comments towards the referee were deemed disparaging following a less than stellar performance from Martin Atkinson and it is definitely something Sir Alex is conscious of in the run up to the game admitting,
“That’s the big fear.”
Beyond the referees Chelsea definitely deserve to be in their current position, 8 wins and a draw in their last 9 league games is championship form and we must be wary of that but we can take heart from the fact that they have lost 5 games on the road this season whilst our home form has played a major factor in our league position having dropped just 2 points all season at Old Trafford.
The game presents a dilema for Ancelotti in what he does with Torres.
The Spaniard has been underwhelming since joining from Liverpool in January and upset the chemistry in their team as Didier Drogba was forced to play second fiddle to the £50m man but since ditching the 4-4-2 that was implemented to accomodate Torres Chelsea have seen an upswing in their fortunes. Torres was a virtual ghost against United in the Champions League and it was Drogba, when he came on in the second half, that posed the biggest threat thus it is likely that Ancelotti will bench his star signing.
Our ties against Chelsea this season have all thrown up some real food for thought and looking at each tie it is possible to see them all playing a part in today’s game. Valencia harassed Ashley Cole in the Community Shield in August. The threat of the winger prevent Cole from getting forward but at the same time made his play count getting forward as he also got onto the scoresheet. He has returned from injury and is likely to again patrol that right wing so can he have a similar effect?
In March David Luiz, despite counting himself lucky to be on the field at the final whistle, stamped his authority on the game and was sorely missed over the two legs in the Champions League, will he be able to again influence Chelsea’s fortunes?
Those 2 games saw Rooney drop deep to do damage, it is likely we will see Rooney repeat tomorrow where he will again line up beside Hernandez upfront so can he again prove the difference?
In regards to Rooney it is likely that John Obi Mikel will be employed to try and slow down the inform striker. Various news sources have been speaking up his chances of doing so this week and if he succeeds he will boost Chelsea’s chances of winning massively but personally I don’t think he is capable, he may be able to for parts but in a game of 90 minutes I think Rooney will be able to shake him off and work his magic.
As I said both teams will know the importance of a win, United will feel they have the mental advantage having beaten Chelsea twice in recent games and three times this season whilst Chelsea are in form so the game should be a good one.
Inevitably I’m picking a United win, I feel Sir Alex has combated the threat of fatigue (the team tired at the Bridge in March with the game on a Tuesday but playing at the weekend) by resting a large part of the team for Wednesday’s win against Schalke. So coupling this with the fact the game is at Old Trafford and the mental advantage we hold having beaten Chelsea twice in our most recent games I feel United can go on and get the win needed to secure the title.