Manchester United: Predicting the Starting XI vs. Chelsea
Manchester United recorded their fourth win of the 2011-12 season with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers last weekend.
This weekend, they will meet their sternest test to date in the English Premier League when they face the might of Chelsea.
Now under new management and with new players signed, the current Chelsea side is not the Chelsea team of old. There is a younger nucleus binding the team, there is a fresher midfield controlling things and the threat the team poses hasn't diminished in the slightest.
Manchester United's young talents will again be blooded in this match, but I expect a much more familiar side this weekend. Here are my predictions for United's starting 11 against Chelsea.
GK: David De Gea
David de Gea is Manchester United's No. 1 goalkeeper, and he is most definitely going to start against Chelsea.
Rested for United's midweek Champions League clash against Benfica, de Gea will be fresh and raring to go.
The Chelsea clash will afford Manchester United one of their toughest tests to date, and it will be another hurdle for the young goalkeeper to climb.
LB: Patrice Evra
Again acting as deputy captain because of the absence of Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra will reprise his role at left back.
The Frenchman's link-up play with Ashley Young is fast becoming an important part of United's counterattack, and his experience will be a huge advantage against Chelsea.
Barring injury, Patrice Evra should start against Chelsea.
RB: Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling's start to the season could not have begun any better. He's been a starter in all of Manchester United's league games so far and only recently got capped for England.
Speaking about his role at right-back, Smalling had this to say:
I played a few games at right-back in pre-season, but so did Phil Jones because we had lost players like Wes Brown and John O'Shea.
I can do a job at right-back but I see it as a temporary thing. If Sir Alex tells me to play full-back then I'll try my best to do the job, but I think I am a centre-half.
I want to be challenging Rio [Ferdinand] and [Nemanja] Vidic for their place because that's where I feel I'm at my best. That's where I have always played. I hope that in the future I'll get to play there for club and country.
CB: Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans has been very solid at the back for Manchester United so far this season, and I see him starting for United at center back.
Evans has displayed some good form for United over the past few weeks and, in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, is the most experienced of United's young defenders. This experience will come in handy against a side like Chelsea.
CB: Rio Ferdinand
Personally, I'd prefer Phil Jones to start alongside Johnny Evans, but with Rio Ferdinand rested against Benfica, it seems that Sir Alex Ferguson has it in mind to start Ferdinand.
The former England captain's experience would be a huge advantage against tricky strikers like Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka.
I can't see Sir Alex not starting Ferdinand if he is fit.
LM: Ashley Young
New signing Ashley Young has had a good start to life at Old Trafford. The England international has already bagged a few goals and created some assists and is looking most likely to start against Chelsea.
Rested in midweek for the Champions League fixture against Benfica with the Chelsea game in mind, Young will be fit and raring to go against Chelsea.
RM: Luis Nani
Four games and three goals so far: that's Nani wrapped up.
The Portuguese midfielder has been in imperious form for Manchester United so far this season. He has added goal-scoring to his CV, and the assists will come.
Nani's threat on the counter-attack is well known, and it will be a plus for United against Chelsea.
Speaking on his aims for the season, Nani said:
That’s one dream I’ve got: to be the best in the world. But I don’t let it frustrate me. I’m not like: 'I have to be the best in the world', because I have other priorities like winning trophies with the team.
Hopefully, when I have finished playing football, people will say 'Nani was a fantastic player who won a lot of titles and beat records at the club' or something like that.
I know I have the condition to be among the select best players in the world, but I have to work hard and show that.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but what I can promise is that as long as I am a football player, I will do my best to try to get there.
Anderson's contribution to the United team so far has been immense. He has given Sir Alex Ferguson's men a real presence in midfield, scoring goals and providing assists as well.
The man Sir Alex intends to build his squad around, Anderson is now a key figure for Manchester United and the way they aim to play.
In a recent interview, Sir Alex had nothing but praise for the Brazilian:
He's been tremendous, the boy. He's had a couple of long-term injuries which haven’t helped him, but in the last year or so, he's steered clear of injury.
That means he's training every day so his fitness levels are much better. And he’s maturing so you can see the consistency in his game.
MC: Michael Carrick
When Tom Cleverley limped out halfway through the Bolton game with an injury—now known to be ligament damage—heads of Manchester United fans collectively dropped.
Not Michael Carrick, we hoped. Well, he was what we got.
There's a reason why Carrick hadn't gotten a game ahead of Cleverley or Anderson—it's the same reason he hasn't always been the replacement when either player has been substituted.
I'm not very confident with Carrick in midfield—his anonymity in the Benfica match only proved it. However, he will start in midfield, as there is no other option.
SC: Wayne Rooney
If fit, Wayne Rooney is always going to play in United's big games.
SC: Javier Hernandez
Manchester United's striking partnership of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez is set to continue against Chelsea this weekend.
Back to his goal-scoring exploits of last season, Hernandez grabbed two goals for United against Bolton Wanderers in their last Premier League match, and he was not far away from a hat trick.