Manchester United vs. Chelsea: Key Matchups to Watch in Pivotal Encounter
One week into the new campaign, both sides showed some very promising football in their opening fixtures, with mind games and ploys already abuzz between Jose Mourinho and David Moyes.
That being said, the media manipulation comes more from the Blues boss than anywhere else. Mourinho recently noted that he hopes Moyes “leaves something for the others [trophies],” per the Metro.
In the first of the English giants’ matchups this term, injuries and selection are already promising to have a big say in the result, with some star-studded clashes set to unravel.
Phil Jones vs. Eden Hazard
With Rafael picking up injury relatively early in last weekend’s win over Swansea City, Manchester United are once again without their promising youngster at right-back, leaving Phil Jones to continue deputising.
After successfully filling in at the position last week, Jones isn't letting himself get too cocky just yet, according to the club's official Twitter:
In terms of style, Jones offers an altogether different approach on the right side of defence. He is far more concentrated on what he allows to leak through than on his own penetration down the right flank.
It could be just as well, too, considering Eden Hazard’s acceleration and ability to get past his opposite man—either by driving to the by-line or cutting onto his right foot—is among the finest in Europe.
That being said, Jones does have a deceptive turn of pace for a centre-back of his size and has shown himself to be a capable alternative at right-back, but the frequency with which either star is caught out of possession will prove key.
Rio Ferdinand vs. Oscar
Even with Romelu Lukaku back amongst the ranks, the striking position remains arguably the weakest at Jose Mourinho’s disposal, with his midfield his main attacking asset.
At the forefront of that area is Oscar, who after just one season in the English top flight looks to be more comfortable than ever in his Stamford Bridge surroundings.
Floating just behind the forward positions, the Brazilian has shown himself to be a busy player around the 18-yard box and will be a priority for the Manchester United midfield and defence to restrain.
Who will be Chelsea's biggest attacking threat against United?
Both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic—or Jonny Evans, should he feature—are likely to come into contact with Oscar in equal share this Monday. Having said that, Ferdinand’s heightened responsibility in United’s central defence is likely to mean him having more of the marking duties.
The Red Devils’ veteran averaged 14 defensive actions per game last season compared to Vidic’s nine and Evans’ 12, according to Squawka, showing just how active he is in his own territory.
With Oscar likely to come up off the shoulder of whomever might be ahead of him, the youngster—already with one goal to his name this season—will continue to provide a key link of attacking support for Chelsea.
It’s Ferdinand who stands in his way this week.
Robin van Persie vs. Gary Cahill
In the 4-1 victory over Swansea City, Robin van Persie exploded back onto the Premier League stage just a few months after winning his second consecutive Golden Boot, immediately nominating himself for a possible third.
The Dutchman’s two-goal contribution allowed Moyes’ men to grab a hugely encouraging three points at the Liberty Stadium, with Gary Cahill likely to have his hands full back at the Theatre of Dreams.
In South Wales, Van Persie again showed himself to be a danger from both close range and outside the box—both areas that Cahill will attempt to govern.
Likely to line up alongside John Terry in central defence, the former Bolton man will strive to give a more confident display than he did against Kenny Miller and the rest of Scotland while playing for England a fortnight ago.
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