Oscar challenges Danny Welbeck as Manchester United and Chelsea do battle
The Champions welcome Europa league finalists Chelsea to Old Trafford for the fifth and final time this season. Chelsea are currently sitting in third place, a point ahead of Arsenal and three ahead of Tottenham as they battle it out for a Champions League spot for next season. Manchester United on the other hand are looking to finish the season on a high and end the campaign with 94 points.
United and Chelsea last played in an FA Cup replay at the start of April, with the London club winning the match 1-0. United threw away a two nil advantage in the first game and, despite Cech’s excellent save from Hernandez, didn’t really challenge in the replay.
The 3-1 victory over Chelsea last season seems a lifetime ago, but hopefully this Sunday’s clash will be as entertaining (even for Torres’ laughable miss). Here, we look at the match preview and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
1) What have you made of the new champions this season? Deserved?
Sadly, I will not go down the route of saying “everyone else threw it away”. United were the most consistent side in the League and ultimately that never lies. The Van Persie signing was a typical piece of Fergie brilliance. He simply sees a top class player, buys them and then worries about the headache later. It might be quite basic to say that he was the difference in the title race, but in reality the Premier League was sewn up months ago largely down to his form. The banner at Arsenal, underneath that typically ridiculous “can’t buy class” banner was also top work. A tip of the cap from me on that.
2) What is your opinion of Rafa Benitez? He’s tried to rotate the team and has now got you in two finals as well as the top four (for now).
I absolutely cannot stand him. That will not change. It isn’t down to results, it’s about employing a charlatan who went beyond the normal managerial lines and explicitly dug out the supporters. Coming from someone who was employed by the professionally offended I find even more ludicrous. The media spin on his improvements is surreal, we were four points off the top when Di Matteo got the sack and now how far are we behind? He’s butchered enough games with weird selections, predictable tactical switches and at times nonsensical rotation policy.
3) Mourinho must surely be your next manager, its only a matter of time, no?
I don’t want to say yes, but I hope so. There will be something cathartic about his return that hopefully sees the club return to its senses after the Benitez debacle. The improvements he made to the likes of Lampard, Terry and Drogba shaped them into the players they became. It will be exciting to see how he develops the likes of Hazard and Mata.
4) Will Lampard get a new deal? There seem to be conflicting stories every day.
Should he get a new deal? Absolutely. Will he? No idea. Lampard is one of the most intelligent footballers on the planet and it would be stupid to lose him in any capacity. I think he is a future manager of this football club and who better to learn the ropes from than the Special One.
5) Tell us about some of the youngsters coming through at Chelsea – you’re in the FA Youth Cup final and lost in the NextGen final.
Where do I start? It’s not something we get a lot of credit for and maybe that’s right given the lack of squad members we are producing. Nevertheless, it has been a ten year restructuring of the academy that has seen Chelsea sides from U14/U19 absolutely dominate at youth team level. The technical ability of some of the players at the club is quite amazing and for the most part locally sourced. The shining light of the academy is Nathaniel Chalobah who could realistically become a world class midfielder if he continues to progress. He’s dominating the Championship at 17/18 years old, no mean feat. I personally like Islam Feruz who reminds me stylistically of Romario, he might well be the best pure finisher at the club. Lewis Baker is another talent I hope makes it at Chelsea, capable of playing anywhere in midfield and entirely two footed (takes set pieces with either foot). The last and perhaps most interesting prospect is Ruben Loftus Cheek who has the power, size, technical ability and talent to become a Ballack-esque player. He’s a bit Pogba-y, for a comparison.
6) How do you think Chelsea will line up on Sunday and what do you think the score will be?
I actually cannot predict what the Spanish Bandit is going to do. Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Luiz, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba. That probably will be nowhere near the actual selection.
7) Whats your favourite Manchester United vs. Chelsea match ever?
Am I allowed to bring up the Taibi game? He’s still my favourite ever United goalkeeper. It’s not often that you tonk United, particularly when Jody Morris scores and plays the trombone.
8) Zola, Drogba or Osgood. If you had to only pick one? And why?
I can’t comment on Osgood, though for anyone reading this he is one of the greatest footballers Chelsea have ever seen and particularly friendly with a certain George Best. If I had to choose between Zola and Drogba I would perhaps surprisingly pick Didier. I grew up with Zola but the Drogba team will always be my team. Standing in Munich as he slotted that penalty is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had as a Chelsea fan, probably the greatest. Arguably the greatest big game player I have seen and just such a phenomenally talented talisman. It has to be Didier, probably the most complete centre forward the Premier League has seen. Zola will remain one of my favourite players, but Drogba on his day was simply unstoppable and we may not see anything like that again.
9) Where do you need to strengthen in the summer? Who would you sign? Falcao on his way?
I would like to see us sign a centre back, two midfielders and a striker. We are desperate for a world class finisher and I would take any of Cavani, Falcao or Lewandowski. Missing an aggressive and athletic midfielder has hurt us on occasions, as well as someone who can dictate things with the ball at his feet. Next season could be very interesting.
10) Is Fernando Torres finished OR is there a swan-song from the Spaniard?
Torres is the ultimate conundrum. There are games where you genuinely think the ball might just be dropping, but there are more times when he looks like he has won a competition to play for a Premier League team. An absolute mystery. If I was making the call I would get rid of him in the summer – no more elephant in the room.
A £20 bet on Javier Hernandez to open the scoring wins you £140
A £20 bet on United to win 3-1 wins you £310
A £20 bet on United to be winning at half time and win the match gets you £68
Danny Welbeck is set to miss the tie against Chelsea on Sunday after picking up a knee injury. Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in the press conference that Nemanaja Vidic is back in training, along with Paul Scholes who could make the bench. Ashley Young is set to miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury that he picked up in the Manchester derby, whilst Darren Fletcher is a long term absentee.
Left back Ashley Cole is expected to return having missed the Europa league clash on Thursday evening. Demba Ba returns to the fold having also missed the European clash. Eden Hazard, who was sensational back in March for the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, came off the bench against FC Basel and is in contention for a start. Oriol Romeu will definitely miss the match, having picked up a knee injury.
Javier Hernandez has a superb record against Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson may opt to start the Mexican ahead of Robin van Persie. Hernandez started both games against Chelsea in the FA Cup and scored in the first game agains the blues. Captain Nemanja Vidic should be on hand to combat the aerial threat of Demba Ba. Many believe Nani could be on his way in the summer, and he’ll hope to put in a better performance than he did last time he played against Chelsea.
How do you you think United will line up?
Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Bentiez do battle once again, with Chelsea needing the win to keep up with Arsenal and Tottenham in the race for a European Cup spot. Chelsea have lost three out of their last five away games. The Europa League finalists lost to Newcastle United, Manchester City and Southampton before beating Fulham and drawing to Liverpool, following Luis Suarez’ late equaliser. The other two games Chelsea have lost on their travels were against WBA and West Ham in the autumn of last year.
United on the other hand have only lost two games at homes this season – against Tottenham in September and against Manchester City last month. The last time Chelsea beat United at Old Trafford was at the end of the 2009/10 season, when Didier Drogba scored the controversial winner (Drogba was clearly offside when he beat Edwin van Der Sar).
Despite the excellent addition of the talented Oscar and light of foot Eden Hazard, Chelsea fans will no doubt hoped they’d have performed a little better this season, considering the heroic exploits in Bayern’s own back yard last May. Didier Drogba’s departure didn’t quite go to schedule, with Fernando Torres ruining Chelsea’s plans. Having said that, the Spaniard is Chelsea’s top scorer this season with nineteen goals.
The most obvious glaring issue with Torres is that he was exceptional, unplayable at times – but there are too many occasions this season where he has resembled your mate Dave at Powerleague on a Thursday night post prematch pint. Demba Ba’s sublime finish against United in the FA Cup showcased the quality of the forward line, with Juan Mata playing a superb ball over the experienced Ferdinand for the striker to latch onto.
United have nothing to play for, however Ferguson will want to get one over Benitez, and his CV, so will no doubt field a strong side intent on winning. If United were still challenging for the title, van Persie would no doubt have started this game. Having said that, Hernandez’ loves scoring against Chelsea. In fact, out of every team in England – Hernandez has found the back of the net more times against the London club than any other team in the land. Seven times and in all possible competitions. Surely the Mexican is worth a start?
Chelsea will lineup their usual 4-2-3-1 with United operating in a similar fashion. Tom Cleverley has missed a lot of first team football since the last defeat to Chelsea. He recently appeared for the U21s as Sir Alex looks to protect his young star from fatigue. Cleverley has a had a decent season alongside Michael Carrick and has played in more games than Jonny Evans, Shinji Kagawa and Phil Jones. It would be a good time to bring the youngster back in the fold against a decent side. Nemanja Vidic, as he did against Andy Carroll in the 2-2 draw with West Ham United, is key for the aerial duels, having missed out in the previous two matches against Chelsea.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Chelsea