Travelling to face a direct rival knowing that they’re the ones who have got all to lose from the context can only mean two things – either the gap is so disproportionally in favour of the hosts that everybody expects them to win, or the visiting team have already run away with the league, thus they can afford to take the game lightly.
Sadly, as far as tomorrow’s clash at Stamford Bridge is concerned, the former applies to United, who travel to South West London knowing full well that the pressure will be all on Chelsea to deliver, for almost nobody expects David Moyes to get a point at a Stamford Bridge, let alone a win.
Nine points behind the Blues, without the injured Wayne Rooney – who, according to the know-it-all reader of the future that is Jose Mourinho, will be sold abroad rather than to another Premier League club – Robin Van Persie, one could be forgiven for thinking that United won’t be the first team to inflict a first league defeat on home turf to Mourinho – who hasn’t lost to David Moyes in their last seven meetings between the two.
And yet, while the Chelsea manager’s record at home is nothing short of superb, United haven’t lost away from home in the league since the 4-1 drubbing at the Etihad in September and have won four of their last six matches away from Old Trafford
Nani and Ashley Young remain sidelined, while Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones have only resumed full training late this week and tomorrow’s game could come a little too soon for them, even though United could do with a physical presence in the middle to limit the danger poised by Eden Hazard.
The Belgian has been in scintillating form, scoring three and assisting one in the last four games and he will undoubtedly relish the prospect of taking on United’s midfield, which has been as watertight as a website attacked by the NSA.
Hazsrd is exactly the sort of player United have been crying out for, capable to score and provide the final pass in equal measure and it’ll be interesting to see how David Moyes plans to stifle out the Belgian’s influence, with Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs all in contention for a starting spot.
Things could be rather more delicate up-front, where Moyes has admitted he could play without a dedicated striker. “We could. When you are a manager your job is to find ways to win the games and I think that is what José has done over the years. He has played in different ways to win games. Maybe it would have been reported differently if I had done it,” said the United manager.
Danny Welbeck, however, is expected to start which will give Captain Leader Legend the opportunity to express his political ideology yet again, while Rio Ferdinand will be spared the usual shower of boos from the classy West Londoners as he’s not expected to make the bench.
Of the six teams above them in the table, United have only beaten Arsenal and while their form throughout the season doesn’t bode well for tomorrow, it’s time to start spoiling a party or two. And we might well begin to do so on the Special One’s turf.