After somewhat contrasting starts to the season but only being separated by two points, the game at Old Trafford against Chelsea on Sunday should prove to be a greater test for the players – especially the new boys – than the Arsenal game a couple of weeks previously.
No matter who the Chelsea manager, you would be hard pressed to imagine a side with the lion that is John Terry anchoring the defence letting in 8 goals, and the whole ethos of the team is different to that of Arsenal – Chelsea actually have winners in their squad.
For a team who have been our main challengers for the last six seasons, it seems strange that people are writing the Blues off this season, suggesting that Manchester City will be the team that come closest to us, and to be fair on recent performances that is not something that should be dismissed, yet it is always difficult to play Chelsea, and Fergie as well as the players, will know they will have to be at their best to get the result they want.
If you look throughout our squad we have a much greater deal of strength in depth than Chelsea, who would certainly struggle if they suffered a few injuries at the back, and what was once one of the best midfield in Europe under Mourinho is now a shadow of its former self. We certainly have the edge over the blues defensively and where they have been able to scrape goals in recent games through sloppy defending or mistakes on set pieces, it is difficult to see any of our players making similar mistakes.
De Gea is looking better with each game, and will benefit from the match being at Old Trafford in front of home fans where the support and confidence boost he thrives on will be afforded to him. Where the keeper switched off and let in a goal against Arsenal due to a lack of concentration, this can not be allowed to happen against Chelsea, who will pose a much greater threat of scoring. Petr Cech made his return against Sunderland and Chelsea will be glad to see him back behind the posts.
Our midfield looks sharp and full of quality, everything Chelsea’s does not. We can provide threats from all areas of the field, with Ashley Young in particular being someone the Chelsea defence will have to track and be aware of. A poor tackle on Cleverley by Kevin Davies has left him facing a month on the side lines, and this will be a big miss for us as he has formed a good partnership with Anderson in the middle of the park. Yet there are many players ready to step in and fill the void with Carrick most likely having had his place usurped by the young Cleverley
Having made his comeback midweek Valencia may be considered but Nani will be looking to retain his place having been one of United’s more influential players in our good start to the season.
When looking at the attacking situation at United in comparison to the one at Chelsea, things could not be more different. Chelsea do not look fluid up top, and the issue of Torres still lingers, with the blues best performance of the season – something that is not exactly a complement – coming against a poor Sunderland, in the absence of both Drogba and Torres who was benched. Chelsea will hope Drogba can play some part in the game on Sunday, but Anelka and Sturridge did more than a good job of covering. Sadly for Torres, unlike times previous, United fans won’t be too sad to see him start on Sunday, as his poor goalscoring form continues.
Rooney could not be in better form at the minute, and will fancy getting a goal or two against Chelsea, but it is his strike partner Hernandez who has the uncanny knack of scoring against Chelsea, and it would not raise many eyebrows if he did so again.
It seems Chelsea are embarking on a period of transition, yet are not managing this as successfully as Fergie does for us, with our summer signings bedding in faster than expected and our squad looking strong throughout. There are few areas where Chelsea are better than us at the minute, and even though historically Chelsea fare well at Old Trafford, a United victory seems the most likely outcome.