Outlining the Chelsea Plan to Stop Robin Van Persie
There have been many questions posed about the position of Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement in May.
How will the club develop? Has their prolonged dominance of the Premier League come to an end? Can David Moyes sustain the club's success? These questions have been born from the seeds of doubt inevitably sowed by the departure of Ferguson.
But there is one thing that remains a certainty at Old Trafford—the class and quality of Robin van Persie.
The Dutch ace is among Europe's deadliest strikers. If they are to overcome the threat of United on Monday evening, Chelsea will need to ensure Van Persie has a quiet night at the office.
His duel with Gary Cahill and John Terry at the heart of Chelsea's defence will be an intriguing one, but how will the Blues' defenders look to ensure they come out on top? Bleacher Report examines some areas Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will look to target.
Cut Off Van Persie's Supply
It seems a simple tactic, and in theory it is, but preventing Robin van Persie from actually getting possession is an altogether more difficult task.
The Dutch striker may be positioned directly through the middle on the teamsheet, yet in reality he often interchanges with those around him.
Last week against Swansea City it was with Danny Welbeck, allowing Van Persie to drop off his marker and sit a little deeper with his teammate ahead of him at times.
The outcome was Van Persie bagging a brace, first latching onto a Ryan Giggs chipped pass to open the scores before attacking the Swansea defence from deep to grab United's third with a long-range effort in the second half.
What makes Van Persie such a threat is his ability to feature so many different aspects in his game. He isn't a traditional target man, nor is he a player who needs to play off a defender's shoulder, for instance. He likes the ball in behind the defence and can also cause damage when in possession outside the box.
It's imperative Chelsea break up United's play and prevent him receiving possession in the final third, where he causes so much damage.
Be Mindful of the Long Ball
We saw last season that this Manchester United team isn't afraid of playing the long-ball game when required.
Van Persie's second strike against Aston Villa at Old Trafford in April last season is probably the most celebrated use of this tactic. The Dutchman scored one of the finest strikes the Premier League has seen in the past decade.
United constantly look to get the ball forward at pace, and Van Persie's movement that evening allowed Wayne Rooney to set him up with a beautiful cross-field pass that was executed with aplomb.
We all know of John Terry's deficiencies when it comes to his pace, so whenever the Blues are on an attack themselves, we can expect Van Persie to sit on the Chelsea captain's shoulder, knowing he can out-sprint him should a long ball be forthcoming.
Avoid Man-Marking Van Persie
Despite rumors of their demise, this Manchester United team is packed full of talent. Robin van Persie is their deadliest goal threat, although paying him too much attention can lead to United's other stars finding the space and time to convert opportunities.
Having a danger man man-marked can appear a positive tactic on the surface, but should Chelsea deploy a player on Monday whose sole purpose is to disrupt Van Persie's game, they will be punished elsewhere.
Man-marking a player leaves gaps for others to fill. It can often cause congestion and confusion, with teammates doubling up in specific areas of the pitch.
It may hinder Van Persie's performance on Monday, but United have other threats Chelsea will need to pay just as much attention to.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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