Manchester United
MANCHESTER UNITED

v

CHELSEA

Old Trafford, Manchester

August 26, 2013; 20:00 GMT

***

David Moyes has his first big test as Manchester United manager when his team hosts Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday. Moyes got off to a good start in his new managerial role as United trounced Swansea City 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium. Braces from Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck got United their first win of the season and ensured that the skeptics were silenced for a bit. However, they will be back for the first real challenge that Moyes faces this season.

A lack of transfer activity has made people question whether David Moyes was the right man to take over the managerial mantle from Sir Alex Ferguson, but it was business as usual for the Red Devils as they convincingly beat a normally stubborn Swansea side. The Liberty Stadium is never an easy venue for opponents and credit must go to United for the way they stuck to their task and dismantled a promising Swansea side. It showed that United have started from where they left off last season under Sir Alex and underlines the fact that the squad has its own identity even with a change in the managerial staff at Old Trafford. The talk of potential signings will be put on hold as Moyes plots to win his first big game of the season.

Chelsea are top of the table after winning both their opening games to the season against Hull City Tigers and Aston Villa. However, this Chelsea side is far from its ruthless best. Against Hull City, they took their foot off the gas after taking a 2-0 lead and against Aston Villa they were far from convincing. Jose Mourinho has work to do if he is to spoil David Moyes’s party. Frank Lampard performed admirably against Hull, while the referee had a hand in the victory against Aston Villa. Mourinho will have to come up with the genuine goods if he is to get a result at Old Trafford. Amidst all this is the transfer wrangling between United and Chelsea over striker Wayne Rooney. United are understood to have rejected a third bid from Chelsea for their striker. Jose Mourinho, however is undeterred and has declared that he will pursue his interest in Rooney until the transfer deadline day.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Manchester United

David Moyes has to decide whether to involve Wayne Rooney in this crunch game or not. With Rooney’s head not in the right place following interest from Chelsea and his desire to leave United, it might not be a wise decision to make him start the match. However, involving him in some smaller role would also send out a signal of intent from United who are not keen to let the England striker leave. Rooney came off the bench in United’s 4-1 win against Swansea and created two goals in that game. His involvement might be the one bit of uncertainty in the game. In other team news for United, Rafael Da Silva is out for up to a month with a hamstring injury, Nani (groin), Javier Hernandez (hamstring) and Ashley Young (ankle).

Moyes is expected to continue with the formation that did well against Swansea with Danny Welbeck playing off Robin van Persie up front. With Rafael set to miss out, Phil Jones or Chris Smalling might cover for him at right back. Ryan Giggs might not be given a starting berth with Shinji Kagawa pushing for a start. Kagawa might interchange positions with Welbeck mid game. Moyes will continue his 4-4-2 formation this way and hope he doesn’t need to rely on Wayne Rooney to come off the substitute’s bench to salvage the points.

Chelsea

Jose Mourinho has used the double pivot 4-2-3-1 formation and looks set to continue using the same at Old Trafford. He is not exactly spoilt for choices in the striking department but should start with Fernando Torres up front. The dilemma for Mourinho would be which three midfielders to play behind the strikers. With Juan Mata back in the fold, either Oscar or Kevin de Bruyne would be selected to play against United. De Bruyne has shown glimpses of his immense talent and might get the nod ahead of Oscar.

Skipper John Terry and talisman Frank Lampard look set to retain their places in Mourinho’s third competitive game in charge in his second Chelsea spell. This means Branislav Ivanovic is expected to continue at right back instead of Cesar Azpilicueta. David Luiz will also not be playing as his future at the club is being resolved. The double pivot of Lampard and Ramires proved effective so far and it should cause United problems. Lampard’s late runs into the box combined with Ramires’s all out playing style will give problems to Carrick and co. in the battle for midfield. The only region Chelsea look lightweight is the striking department, which Mourinho means to address given his unequivocal interest in United’s Wayne Rooney, which provides an interesting backdrop to this battle of Premier League giants.

Key Facts

1. Manchester United have won 42.11 % of games played between these two clubs at Old Trafford

2. Chelsea have won 26.32 % of the games played between these clubs at Old Trafford.

3. Chelsea could become the first team to win 2 matches at Old Trafford in a calendar year following their 1-0 win in May.

4. United have won only 2 of its last 5 games in the Premier League, both against Swansea.

Player To Watch Out For

Juan Mata (Chelsea)

Mata on his day can fire Chelsea into the driving seat. He did not play the first game of the season and made only a substitute’s appearance in the second, but a fit Mata is a treat to watch. Mata can unlock defenses with his passing and holds the key to controlling the midfield as well. With the strikers flattering to deceive at Chelsea, Mata would be looked at to provide the goals and create the chances for Eden Hazard and co. Mourinho hasn’t elaborated on his plans for Juan Mata in the Chelsea line up and this game could be a clue to how Mata will be used by the Portuguese coach this season. Mata scored a wonder free kick against United last season and we leave you with an image of that.

Prediction

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea

Chelsea under Mourinho are again back to being defensively strong and this being David Moyes’s first big game in charge, looks to be a cagey affair in a goalless first half. The teams will open up in the second and the teams will score one each to cancel each other out and share the spoils. This will be a good first test of Moyes’s composure and resolve against Mourinho’s tact and experience.

 Blast From The Past