The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Chelsea
Heavyweight showdown between two teams expected to challenge for the title.
David Moyes leads his team out at Old Trafford for the first time in a competitive fixture as Manchester United entertain Chelsea, in an early-season showdown that should tell us much about both sides.
Moyes' first game in charge went off without a hitch; the champions showed no signs of the wheels falling off in game one of the post-Ferguson era, registering a resounding 4-1 win at Swansea.
Robin van Persie looked menacing as ever, scoring two quality goals, Danny Welbeck doubled his entire goal tally for last season inside 90 minutes and even want-away striker Wayne Rooney, who's had his head turned by Chelsea, managed to swivel it back round long enough to notch two assists. After a botched summer in the transfer market, this was a reminder that the champions still ooze class where it matters - on the pitch.
At Chelsea it's a case of 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss', and Jose Mourinho has wasted little time in kicking back into the swing of things at Stamford Bridge. Two wins from his first two games against Hull (2-0) and Aston Villa (2-1) make the Blues the early pacesetters. Armed with an alarming array of artful attackers buzzing busily behind a lone striker, Chelsea already look like a side to be feared. Hull were casually dispatched and Villa seen off eventually, but bigger challenges are to come - starting on Monday at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have several injuries to contend with heading into this game, but Jonny Evans is approaching fitness again after an illness, while Wayne Rooney will hope to shrug off a minor calf problem. Nani, Ashley Young, Rafael, Javier Hernandez and Darren Fletcher miss out.
Chelsea's treatment room is far more spacious. David Luiz is Mourinho's only major concern at present and the Brazilian is expected to recover from a hamstring injury.
Player to Watch: Danny Welbeck
The England international came under heavy scrutiny last season after posting a goal record that left much to be desired - just one league goal all season. Two goals on the opening day will certainly calm his nerves on that front, but what is often overlooked by many is the all-round contribution the 22-year old offers.
Welbeck has a fierce work rate in attack and plays the defensive forward role well; pressing from the front, tracking opposition runners and generally sacrificing himself for the team without fuss.
The Swansea game was a perfect example of this. Welbeck made more ball recoveries than any other United player, many of them in deep defensive positions, and the third most interceptions of any player on the field after Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand.
Sir Alex Ferguson's now famous decision to drop Wayne Rooney against Real Madrid last season was clearly with this in mind, and Welbeck's willingness to toil for the cause will be a useful weapon for Moyes. Particularly against a Chelsea side with frightening speed and efficiency in transitions.
For the first time in his managerial career David Moyes enters a game against one of the league's big guns without the tag of plucky underdog. No longer will a point be 'hard-fought' or victory 'ripping up the form guide'. At United, Moyes is expected to win - and win well.
This will bring its own challenges for the Scotsman. Moyes is yet to beat Jose Mourinho in a league game; their eight meetings when he was at Everton yielded 5 wins in Chelsea's favour and 3 draws.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man Utd 0-1 Chelsea (PL, May 13)
- Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd (FAC, Apr 13)
- Man Utd 2-2 Chelsea (FAC, Mar 13)
- Chelsea 5-4 Man Utd (LC, Oct 12)
- Chelsea 2-3 Man Utd (PL, Oct 12)
Facts and figures
- Robin van Persie has now scored nine goals in his last eight Premier League appearances.
- Chelsea could become the first team ever to win two Barclays Premier League games at Old Trafford against United in a calendar year.
- Manchester United have suffered 14 Premier League defeats against Chelsea - more than against any other side.
- The Red Devils' Premier League win percentage against Chelsea is just 31% - their lowest aginst any foes.
- These two sides met five times in 2012/13, with Chelsea previling three times and losing just once.
- Javier Hernandez has scored in six of his last nine appearances aginst Chelsea in all competitions.
- Jose Mourinho has lost just two of his seven competitive games as a manager at Old Trafford (W3 D2).
- At Swansea, Wayne Rooney provided two assists as a substitute. This happened only twice last season.
- A win in this game would mean Chelsea had won their opening three league games in three of the last five seasons.
- Juan Mata has scored in each of the last three league games between these sides.
A lively, but close game. 2-2.