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Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is without a doubt United’s biggest game and hardest game of the season so far. Not just because it’s Chelsea but because they’re unbeaten in the league and top, by four points. We’ve cornered Chelsea fan, @JoeTweeds, and forced him into giving us some answers to some very probing questions!
Only one place to start, why don’t you like Juan Mata*?
I would have to say his beard and the fact his initiation song was the Macarena let him down drastically.
On a more serious note, Chelsea have been impressive so far and some of the new boys have been key to that- how have the new attacking players settled in?
I think the old adage of giving foreign players a year to settle into the Premier League is slowly losing its validity. Looking at how well Hazard and Oscar have settled you would think that they had been playing in the league for a few years, not a few weeks. There is an understanding between Hazard, Oscar and Mata that seems to improve almost weekly and the performance against Spurs and Arsenal would both hopefully show they can do it against the bigger sides as well.
Hazard is an excellent finisher, possesses superb balance, a sublime first touch and an eye for a killer pass. Oscar has been a revelation and is reminiscent of a young Kaká. All the trickery, creativity and guile of a player who wears Brazil’s number 10 shirt is combined with a robustness that not many knew he had. His goal against Juventus was possibly the best ever scored at Stamford Bridge and his link-up play is exceptional. How we bought him for €25m (about £20m) I will never know. Mata is the orchestrator of the team though and watching him on a weekly basis is a pleasure. Goals against Arsenal and Tottenham showed his big game credentials and he is the architect behind this attacking renaissance happening at the club. Moses has been an inspired signing who provides pace, directness and power from the flanks. Marko Marin also impressed in his cameo performance, though he seems to be a walking injury case.
Does Torres need to be doing more? Do you think you’ll sign a replacement for him in January?
Torres is a conundrum. He will have a superb game where he’ll score or assist and then return to this shell of a player who looks to be running in treacle the following week. Transfer fee aside he should be doing much more anyway and he is missing chances you would expect RVP to tuck away 9 times out of 10. He has a side built around him now that play to his strengths, yet he flits in and out of games and does not finish chances that come his way. Our top goal scorer mainly through volume of chances presented to him than finishing ability. The crowd won’t turn on him, but there is little confidence in his ability to be the top tier striker that the players behind him not only need but deserve.
In terms of a replacement I would be surprised if we don’t buy in January. Falcao would be a dream purchase. To think of what he might do with the way we are playing (and looking to play) is quite scary. It’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve created 2/3 goal scoring chances for Torres in almost every game he’s played this season. Cavani/Falcao or any other elite striker is likely to have scored in every game we have played this season. If we carry on playing how we are and our form remains decent it isn’t too much of a stretch to say he makes us genuine title contenders. It’s still very early days in the season and we’ve made similar starts before falling away in December/January.
I think there’s a similarity between United and Chelsea – both don’t seem to have a problem scoring but is it fair to say their defences can be got at?
I think when you are trying to rebuild a side both in terms of personnel and stylistically there are certain things you need to accept. The days when we would concede 15 goals in a season are long gone and it’s probably something you cede when drastically changing styles. John Obi Mikel is becoming a bit of a force in midfield and his combination with Ramires looks to be a perfect blend. He was brilliant against Tottenham and kept Cazorla/Arteta quiet against Arsenal. I am a little worried about how we’re defending set-pieces, and Ivanovic tends to let too many crosses in from his side of the pitch. Largely I’m fairly happy and it’s definitely something most are happy to trade up for the type of football we’re playing at the moment.
Will not having Terry available be a big loss?
He is probably the most universally disliked footballer in the country, outside of SW6, but anyone disputing what Terry brings to the side is taking it a bit too far. He certainly isn’t the same player he was a few seasons ago, but never having to rely on pace means he isn’t really declining at the rate of others. He is still the best penalty box defender in the world in my opinion, I don’t think England concede that goal against Poland if he’s playing as an example. It’s what he brings to the table as a presence that is probably the thing we miss the most. The best captain in terms of pure leadership I have seen and you know when he’s on the pitch that concentration and performance levels are not likely to dip.
Have you watched much of United this season – anything about us surprised you?
I really only try and judge on 90 minutes that I’ve seen, but unsurprised at how easy Van Persie has settled in. Annoyingly he is exactly the type of striker who would score 30 league goals in our current setup on chances created so far, but probably not what United needed in the summer.
United are United though.
No matter how ordinary people from afar think they look on paper, they still play the same way and are inevitably there or thereabouts when the league is decided. Losing the league title with the final kick of the season is probably the slimmest margin of victory in recent years seemed to be lost in the general City furore. I don’t think your midfield is the most mobile centrally and I was surprised you didn’t buy someone there in the summer. The rotating of goalies is also something a bit odd.
United have generally played well at Stamford Bridge in recent years but rarely got more than a point, why do you think that is?
I think it’s probably down to SAF looking to counteract our shape or formation that seems to make the game something of a stalemate. He seems to look to nick a goal and then continue to work hard to try and take all 3-points. It often results in both sides simply cancelling themselves out. Even when Chelsea have won it’s been down to a decision or a very slim margin.
Want to be bold and offer a prediction for the game?
Heart says 2-1. Torres & Oscar. Van Persie for you. Head says whoever scores first will win.
Finally, does it bother you that Chelsea seem to struggle to bring youngsters through, particularly ones you’ve produced, especially given recent success at youth level?
Seeing Ryan Bertrand come through towards the end of last season and play in the Champions League final seemed to signal something of a new dawn in policy at the club. It is amazing what happens when you give players a chance. The changes made at the academy were always going to take time to pay dividends. A couple of youth cup wins and academy sides who are frequently among the best in the country are now the norm for our U18s. The problem we seem to have is making the leap from being an excellent player at that level to being a first team player.
We seem obsessed with developing stars when the reality is we could have saved millions by using our academy to provide utility squad players. Michael Mancienne and Jack Cork were both players who had been at the club since U10s, both could play a whole host of positions and both have gone on to show they can play at a decent level. The current crop out on loan have a lot of potential (McEachran, Chalobah etc) but it’s a question about whether they get a chance. Our U18 side play some of the best football in the country and I can only hope that a few of them start making the jump up to the first team.
*Joe does really like Juan Mata, a lot
Do give Joe a follow on Twitter, he does enjoy it a lot when Chelsea win but he’s also a good guy!