Facing Chelsea scares me. Even in the glory days of Manchester United domination the visit of Chelsea always had a different feeling to it. It was like they weren’t fussed about how good we were, they must have been the only team that were more arrogant than the sides marshaled by Sir Alex Ferguson. That scared me.
Furthermore, Jose Mourinho scares me. Even when he first burst onto the scene with Porto, where his team drastically over-performed to win at Old Trafford. There was something more than his arrogance, passion and mind games that perturbed me; he understood every team he played against to the very bare bones, his fundamentalist style of management was executed with so much aplomb and detail. It’s hardly surprising he has such an illustrious record. Unlike many pragmatic and stubborn managers, Mourinho’s philosophy revolves around modifying your teams playing style in order to accommodate the opposition.
With that in mind, you would need to date back to 28th August 2012 to see the last time Jose Mourinho got his hands on some silverware. This is probably a contributing factor to Chelsea’s current predicament. It’s been 10 years since the world first saw this rough diamond of a manager, brimming with passion, sprinting down the touchline at Old Trafford in celebration of reaching the Champions League’s last 4. But after all these years the fire still burns brighter than ever in the belly of a seemingly more conducted and composed figure.
The absence of silverware is driving Mr Mourinho to a worrying extent, his team is absolutely flying; in 12 games in all competitions so far this term Chelsea have netted 33 goals and are yet to lose a game. Their form in 2014 is a stark contrast to that of Manchester United’s, where the Red Devils haven’t put together 3 wins in a row this calendar year, Chelsea have only lost 3 times in the domestic league, with a win percentage of 74% and an average of 2.2 goals per game.
On paper, it should be a breeze for Chelsea. But if there is one man who can fathom the method behind the Mourinho madness, it’s Louis van Gaal. Following 3 wins and 8 goals at Old Trafford in the lead up to this game the Dutchman would have instilled a lot of belief into his side as well as clear plan over what needs to be done on Sunday.
Manchester United’s best chance of emerging victorious this is to be out the traps the fastest. If Louis van Gaal’s team goes straight for the jugular with the crowd urging them on, there is a heightened chance of gaps opening up. If the visitors see too much of the ball and settle in during the early stages of the match it could be a relatively long afternoon. A lot rides on the first 15 minutes.
A lot also rides on the availability of Diego Costa; the Brazilian born Spaniard has embraced the viguour of the Premier League with ease and sits rather comfortably at the summit of the Premier Leagues leading goal-scorers. The striker has suffered from a hamstring injury, which sidelined him for Chelsea’s win at Crystal Palace last Saturday as well as having a stomach bug. The striker trained separately from the Chelsea squad yesterday and Mourniho has suggested he has a ‘chance’ of featuring.
If the striker is fit and raring to go then Chelsea may come out and smell the fear at Old Trafford, subsequently committing men forward and creating countless holes in a currently makeshift defence. If not, Chelsea will most definitely adopt the mentality that accounted for wins at Manchester City and Liverpool last season; allow the home team to come at you, absorb the pressure, steal a goal at the other end and come away with a devious 0-1 victory.
The fact that Chelsea is a team with the means to carry out two completely different mentalities is the exact reason as to why they are clear title favourites. Jose Mourinho has a bunch of players who are able to flourish in any situation and carry out his philosophy consistently. Whatever Mourinho decides to do tomorrow, he’ll have to do it without Loic Remy. Ramires, Mikel and Schurrle are also doubts and will most likely not start the match.
Manchester United fans can be buoyed on by the fact that Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera are both available for the encounter with Chelsea. Juan Mata will face his old club for the first time since leaving in January, and the likes of Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick won’t feature due to a shortage of fitness.
Manchester United haven’t beat Chelsea at Old Trafford since September 2011. With Chelsea in flying form and Manchester United still getting used to the methods of Louis van Gaal it’s most likely that the wait for a home win over Chelsea will drag on for a little longer. Nonetheless, it’s a game with a great deal of promise that will almost certainly deliver goals.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-3 Chelsea