It’s been well over a year now since the last time Manchester United lost a Premier League game away from home, but that impressive record is now under severe threat. Up next is a Chelsea side who are unbeaten under German manager Thomas Tuchel & are desperate to get back into the top-4.
The Red Devils have been extremely resilient in away games and displayed the never-say-die attitude which has sometimes been missed at Old Trafford. With United in need of a big win with an important Manchester Derby ahead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes his boys can rekindle their fiery spirit & deal Chelsea their first loss in the Tuchel era.
Chelsea Likely XI
Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso, Mount, Werner, Giroud
Thiago Silva is a major doubt for this game after missing the last two matches through injury.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, James, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood
Paul Pogba remains ruled out for the game with a muscle injury. Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek & Scott McTominay are all fighting against time to make this – but McTominay is perhaps likeliest to feature in the starting XI.
Chelsea vs Manchester United Preview
Despite their 13-month unbeaten streak in away games in the PL, United’s dominance in those matches has been hindered in recent weeks. They’ve been held to very dull draws in their last two away games, which means they must raise their levels to defeat a resilient Chelsea & improve their record against top-6 opposition this season – having been unable to defeat any of the traditional ‘top side’ in the league this season.
Tuchel has revolutionized the London side’s tactics, reverting to a much more possession-based style where they basically love to bore their opponents to death. But thankfully for the Red Devils, they actually love it when opponents dominate possession & give them ample counter-attacking opportunities. OGS will just want his side to be clinical enough whenever they get those counter-attacking chances.
One man to be part of counter-attacks or anything good in attack is the magnificent Bruno Fernandes. He’s going all out to win the Golden Boot and wants to weave magic at the ground where he got his first PL assist! The Portuguese will have the sturdy N’Golo Kante & Jorginho on his toes all the time, so he must be even smarter in sneaking into good positions & sending his teammates through with clever passes.
Marcus Rashford & Dan James should be the engine of the United side in those swift breaks, so they need to be more composed with their decisions in the final third. Rashford is oozing with confidence on the flank wing & can terrorize any defender with his penetrative movement down that flank. James has rediscovered his form & loves playing against Chelsea (1g, 1 assist vs them last season), so he’ll be looking to burst ahead with pace to cause issues around their penalty area.
Mason Greenwood could get a start as the centre-forward if Cavani doesn’t make it & also considering Anthony Martial’s poor form. If he does, the Englishman must take his chances to prove he is United’s future #9. McTominay should be back and will be the enforcer in United’s midfield, regaining possession as well as moving the ball forward with more efficiency. Fred should act like the houndish figure in midfield tasked to make key interceptions & phase-out Chelsea’s midfielders.
United probably won’t even try dominating possession in this one, but they must be more affluent in the swift-breaks & improve their finishing to trouble Chelsea’s strong defence as well as Edouard Mendy. The Red Devils should know they’ll need multiple goals to get a result here, because their own backline can’t save the day.
Harry Maguire & David de Gea have both been quite error-prone as of late & must be at their very best to redeem their disappointments as well as get a clean sheet. The aggressive Eric Bailly should be back to spice things up, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka & Luke Shaw add more defensive sturdiness as well as versatile options in the attack.
While Chelsea are playing a more possession-based style, some of their attacking stars have greatly benefitted from this. Mason Mount is purring like a Siamese cat and is at the root of everything good in their attacking moves with his proactive presence. Timo Werner looks more confident & creative in the frontline, while Olivier Giroud hardly needs many chances to score. Even wing-backs Marcus Alonso & Reece James add effective attacking threat & can sneak in goals if United aren’t careful enough.
The Red Devils need to outmatch Chelsea’s tempo, defend strongly as a unit and be at their ruthless best in counter-attacks to end the Blues’ unbeaten streak. With Man City already running away with the title & Leicester City threatening their second-place spot, United needs to come up with an emphatic performance to retain their top-2 spot & improve their ‘big game’ credentials.
Considering that both teams go into this game with nearly similar recent form, I can only see them canceling each other out. I’m predicting an entertaining 2-2 draw.