Chelsea Game Is Perfect Opportunity for United Defence to Bounce Back to Form

Simon EdmondsCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2012

CLUJ-NAPOCA, ROMANIA - OCTOBER 02:  Patrice Evra of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between CFR 1907 Cluj and Manchester United at the Constantin Radulescu Stadium on October 2, 2012 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Since the first game of the 2012-13 Premier League season, when the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines managed to make the Manchester United defence look silly, things have not exactly gone as Sir Alex would expect in regards to his back four.

This past week saw one of the most shocking slip ups from the ever-alarming defensive unit, as two goals were shipped at home to Stoke City and Braga respectively. Luckily for Red Devils supporters, the Rooney-van Persie partnership was once again on hand to bail the back four out of a couple of very sticky situations.

With this weekend's top of the table clash fast approaching, Evra and co. will have to go some way to step up their game and give United any sort of chance of taking as much as a point away from Stamford Bridge.

So can they do it? My head tells me no, but my heart and 17-year knowledge of United tells me that anything is possible.

Undoubtedly, the Chelsea offense has been one of the most lethal in the whole of European football so far this year. The summer signing's of Eden Hazard and Oscar, as well as the continued success of Juan Mata (a signing that Chelsea fans should be thanking AVB for I might add) have led the Blues into a dominating position in the very early stages of this year's Premier League table.

That isn't even taking into account EURO 2012 golden boot winner and all-round world class striker, Fernando Torres, who after such a lengthy spell of poor form has seemingly started to find his old scoring boots again.

Chelsea look like the complete package this year, and are unquestionably the team to beat this campaign. 

But Sir Alex and United have forged a dynasty out of doing just that—defying the odds and winning when perhaps it would have been easier to lose.

In truth, if the tablecloth army had a more solid defence right now then my instincts tell me that United and Chelsea would probably find themselves on a fairly level playing field. Going forward nobody can question United's prowess, and an average of three goals a game proves their threat emphatically.

The United back four has the perfect chance at Stamford Bridge this week to show the world that they are still capable of shutting teams out. 

The key is keeping the wide men, Mata and Hazard, as quiet as possible. Okay, so it's easy to say "man-mark Hazard all match and starve him of the football," and a lot harder to expect any players right now to be able to pull it off.

United need to keep possession and most crucially of all, Evra has to play like a defender for once this season and not like a left-sided winger.

Far too many times this year already the Frenchman has been caught out on an attack, only to leave his position exposed for an easy counter-attack.

Against Chelsea this is the ultimate defensive sin.

A solid, reserved (attacking-wise) game from both Evra and Rafael is what is required to ensure that Hazard and Mata have as little affect on the game as is humanly possible.

It's a big ask, but if Sir Alex gets his tactics right, and the United defenders play like we know they can, and not like how they have been, then anything is possible.

If a similar performance is exhibited from the back four to what we have been seeing so far this year, then United could be on the receiving end of an absolute spanking.

It will be a great watch—whatever the outcome—for neutrals who love a good, hard footballing battle.

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