Manchester United vs. Chelsea: 5 Things to Watch in Monster EPL Clash
It may be too early to regard this weekend’s clash at Old Trafford as a title decider, but once the 90 minutes are up, it should shed light on whether Chelsea can be considered as Manchester United’s main title threat.
Despite being unbeaten under new manager Andre Villas Boas, the Blues have been largely unimpressive thus far this season.
Manchester United, on the other hand, has been in imperious form. They have not just defeated all of their opponents; they have destroyed them. Arsenal, Tottenham and Bolton have all been routinely thrashed by the Red Devils, and it is difficult to see how Chelsea can neutralise the attacking flair of Wayne Rooney, Chicharito, Ashley Young and Nani.
This is slideshow will analyse five of the most important pre-match talking points ahead of the monster clash on Sunday.
United’s Goalkeeper Selection
David De Gea has shown glimpses of the quality that led to Sir Alex Ferguson to spend £18.5 million on the Spain under-21 international, but all too often, he has looked hesitant between the posts.
The Spaniard has looked suspect at defending shots from distance and has allowed himself to become intimidated by rival forwards.
His confidence has clearly been hindered by his slow start to the season, which has led to several high profile errors, notably Shane Long’s goal for West Bromwich Albion.
Anders Lindegaard, on the other hand, cut a cool and composed figure between the United posts in the Champion’s League encounter against Benfica. When he was called upon, he made several important saves and was faultless in Cardozo’s goal.
Could Ferguson opt to use the Danish international in United’s biggest match of the season thus far?
The former Manchester City youngster enjoyed a stellar half-season on loan at Bolton last season and seems to have brought his fine form into the 2011-2012 season.
Despite being suspended for the opening games of the season, the Sturridge was a menacing in the Chelsea offense and scored the decisive second goal after 51 minutes.
With Vidic out of contention for a slot in United’s starting 11, there is a hole in their defence. Although Smalling and Jones have proven themselves to be worthy deputies, Sturridge’s persistence could force the young English centrebacks into making a mistake.
Ashley Young vs. Jose Bosingwa
Ashley Young has fitted sublimely into the Manchester United midfield and has arguably established himself as an early candidate to be recognised as the best signing of the summer transfer window.
Jose Bosingwa, on the other hand, has just fought his way back into the Chelsea starting 11 after spending two seasons away from the first team.
Under Andre Villas Boas, the Portuguese international looks like the same menacing player he was when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s predictable match tactics means that Bosingwa and Cole will frequently be overlapping the Chelsea midfield, at times being the most advanced players on the pitch.
With a player like Ashley Young lurking on the flank, United will be lethal on the counter attack. Although Bosingwa is no sloth, Young’s pace and crossing ability could lead to Chelsea being over exposed on the counter attack.
At the same time, Young likes to drift into the centre, which thus draws Evra further forward. If Bosingwa is dragged out of position, Chelsea’s left flank could leave one of the finest left backs in the world in acres of space.
Juan Mata vs. United Right-Back
It speaks volumes that United’s weakest outfield position is at right-back.
Chris Smalling has deputised brilliantly in the position. He has shown a genuine willingness to get forward and has put on a continuous stream of reassuring displays in the Red Devils' back line.
That being said, he is not a natural right back, and his unfamiliarity in the position has produced the odd lapse in concentration.
Juan Mata, on the other hand, is one of the finest attacking midfielders in world football. He offers Chelsea width and creativity in a way that is not dissimilar to the service David Silva provides Manchester City.
The Spaniard likes to drift into the centre of the pitch, allowing Ashley Cole the opportunity to overlap. Whoever plays at right-back in this weekend’s clash will have to be sure to stay in position and not be tempted to follow Mata into the centre of the pitch.
If they do, the right flank will be left exposed to a menacing Ashley Cole.
A rejuvenated hair line seems to have injected a new lease of life into Wayne Rooney.
The England international has started the season in imperious form; he has already scored two hat tricks, helping him amass a tally of eight goals in four games.
Chelsea have fallen victim to some suspect defending this season, most notably Shane Long’s goal for the Baggies following a suspect free kick from Ramires to fell Brazilian Alex.
Rooney’s tendency to drop deep, combined with Hernandez’s enthusiasm to find space behind the defensive line, could pick apart Chelsea’s defence.
Rooney will be an ever present figure in all areas of the pitch come Sunday. The presence of Hernandez or Welbeck up front has allowed the England international to drop deep and fight for the ball without compromising United’s attacking play.