Premier League Week 2 Predictions: Key Men for Manchester United and Chelsea
The hosts kicked off their season with a hugely impressive 4-1 victory over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, with Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck each grabbing two goals as United cantered comfortably over the finish line.
Chelsea faced newly promoted and newly renamed Hull City Tigers on the opening weekend. The Blues barely had to get out of second gear as they saw off Steve Bruce's men 2-0 in one of the more professional performances you are likely to see this year.
Jose Mourinho's side were unstoppable in the opening half an hour and, despite only scoring twice with Frank Lampard also missing an early penalty, looked like they could have gone on to hit double figures.
With the two sides both securing comfortable victories on the opening weekend, we take a look at the key men who will battle it out as two of the favourites to lift the Premier League trophy go head to head.
Robin van Persie
The Dutchman opened the scoring against Swansea on Saturday with an acrobatic right-foot volley, which, in an interview with the BBC, he later said was “one of the best goals I have ever scored with my right foot.”
A complete performance against the Swans, van Persie popped up again with 20 minutes to go by scoring what is surely to be one of the prettiest goals of the season. Trading a one-two with Wayne Rooney, the Dutch forward tore toward the Swansea goal and, after turning two defenders, let rip from 25 yards. The ball flew past the helpless Michel Vorm and into the top left-hand corner.
With 37 league games left to play and two goals already under his belt, van Persie is showing signs he could well improve upon his goalscoring record of last year, when he found the net 26 times in the league en route to winning the Premier League golden boot.
One of the Premier League's most experienced defenders, Chelsea captain John Terry will be the man aiming to stop Manchester United's impressive front line.
Although not blessed with pace, Terry's tenacity, strong head, drive to win and utter determination make him one of the most feared defenders in the league. With over 400 Chelsea appearances and nearly 100 England caps to his name, the 32-year-old has been around long enough to know how to deal with every attacking threat.
Terry's performance against Hull was typical of the one you'd expect from the club captain. And although he wasn't challenged in the way he will be against Manchester United, the defender did everything required of him and did so with a cool head.
The United forwards, although full of confidence from last season's league-winning campaign as well as their performance against Swansea, are sure to be less confident about finding the back of Chelsea's net as they line up against Terry.
Michael Carrick is without doubt one of the Premier League's more accomplished midfielders but, surprisingly, isn't always given the credit he deserves.
Carrick isn't one to go about his business in a loud manner or attract attention for the job that he does—perhaps that is exactly the reason he doesn't receive the plaudits that fellow Premier League players do.
His stats speak for themselves. In the 2012/13 season, according to Squawka, the midfielder competed in 36 league matches and completed an astonishing 88 percent of his passes. Combined with an average shot accuracy of 50 percent—quite something for a midfielder not known for his shooting prowess—along with 61 percent average of duels won, it is no wonder that former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was full of praise for the 32-year-old.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ferguson said:
He is a quiet lad. He goes about his life in a similar way to Paul Scholes. It doesn't mean to say he is not recognised by us.
You get players like that. Denis Irwin was much the same. He was not the type to trumpet his achievements.
It is quite refreshing in the modern game that we have players who can rely on their ability not only by promoting or projecting themselves.
Carrick, as ever, is likely to have a steady but solid game in the heart of the Manchester United midfield, moving the ball around with the Reds looking to frustrate Chelsea.
Although not flamboyant by any stretch of the imagination, if Chelsea don't keep tabs on the England midfielder then he could quite easily open them up at any given time.
Following his transfer from Lille in 2012, Eden Hazard quickly became one of the Premier League's most exciting talents. Blessed with terrific pace and good with both feet, the Belgian winger never shirks an opportunity to go past his man before delivering a dangerous ball into the penalty area.
The 22-year-old scored 13 times and provided 25 assists during his debut Premier League season and will look to surpass that phenomenal return as he continues to adjust to life in England.
Despite Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho aiming criticism at Hazard in particular following Chelsea's dip in performance after they scored their second goal against Hull, in reality it was a lull in overall team endeavour, with Hazard continuing to excite.
As reported by Laurie Whitwell in the Daily Mail, Mourinho said:
I want more responsibility and more ambition. When you are a normal player you have to be happy if you perform OK, when you have actions during the game that show quality.
But when you are a top talent you can’t waste that talent, when somebody gives you that talent. I think at this talent level he is somebody very above us.
I want to give him that responsibility and ambition, for the kid to be better and better and to express himself on the pitch match after match.
However, Hazard is sure to have taken on board "The Special One's" words, regardless of whether they were justified or not, and will be out to prove a point as Chelsea face United.