United look to storm Stamford Bridge Fortress

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Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager the Premier League has ever seen; he has broken countless records, won 12 titles and swept all before him. That is to say, all, except for one team. Sunday’s opponents, Chelsea, are the only team in Premier League history to boast a positive win/loss ratio against the great man. Despite a recent 5 match unbeaten record against the Blues, it has been over 10 years since United beat them at their own ground. To make this task even more daunting, Chelsea are yet to even draw at Stamford Bridge this season, winning 5 out of 5 home fixtures. However, this doesn’t mean the game is a foregone conclusion. United are looking more confident in recent times, recording 4 straight victories after the Tottenham mishap, and have scored the most goals out of any Premier League team. With Chelsea the second top scorers; on paper we have a classic in store.

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Form

Both teams are coming off European fixtures going into the Sunday showdown, yet it is United who will be feeling the rosier, after a trademark come from behind win against Portuguese side Braga in front of the Stretford End. Chelsea, on the other hand, endured a gruelling beating at the hands of the Ukrainians, Shakhtar Donetsk. Thoroughly outplayed, with only a consolation goal to cling to, their long journey home will have been further salt in the wound. Di Matteo will look to shake off the fatigue, and a home return to the Premier League will be a most welcome tonic. Chelsea are motoring along, having seen off both Arsenal and Spurs away, and winning 100% at home. United themselves aren’t in a bad position, only 4 points off the pace and winning all 3 away fixtures since the opening day disappointment at Goodison Park. Injuries are nothing new to an unfortunate United team, and Kagawa has been added to the list after falling to a knee injury against Braga. Chelsea will also be missing Lampard and Terry, which will force their hand somewhat in the first XI they put on the field.

Match Up

Experimenting with formations seems to be a fixture of the Premier League this season. Manchester City have dabbled, with mixed success, with three at the back, whilst United and Chelsea have switched to a more narrow, diamond formation. For Chelsea, who, like a determined supermodel, have stuck rigorously to this thin set-up, this places a lot of importance on their two marauding fullbacks. Both Cole and Ivanovic have been encouraged to charge forward, and this added width has certainly become a key component of the Blues play this season. With Evra not having his best start defensively to a season, this will mean Sir Alex will have to devise a counter plan. Countering fullbacks usually is best done with two determined wingers, who can then pin-back their opposing players, who will fear for leaving too much space behind them. It is for this reason that Fergie may consider a return to the a more conventional formation with two out and out wide players, which could force Chelsea into a more restricting situation of being forced to go through the middle with no outlet to escape out wide. Indeed, when United have beaten Chelsea the recently, this charge of playing too narrow has been laid against them. If this tactic is to be enforced, Valencia will have to step up his recent play, although he could turn it up against Ashley Cole, who he enjoys playing against. If Fergie goes against using Nani on the left-wing, Robin van Persie dropping left could turn out to be a devastating weapon, as shown by his superb cross for Rooney’s equalising goal against Stoke.

Whilst United’s formation is subject to change, Chelsea’s is seemingly set in stone. Mata, Oscar and Hazard are likely to interchange their fairly central positions behind lead striker, Fernando Torres. These three dynamic forward players will mean Ferdinand and Evans will have to be on their toes and focuses throughout the match. Although Torres has been out of sorts lately, he seems to kick into an extra gear against United, scoring 4 in his lat 7 Premier League starts against them. As these three attacking midfielders are expected to start, this game is seemingly a perfect fit for Tom Cleverley, with his enthusiasm ideal for containing the speedy intensity of Chelsea’s midfield and forward line. However if, as it looks likely, Carrick and Scholes start in the middle, Sir Alex will be looking for Welbeck and Rooney to help out. Indeed, Rooney’s man-marking effort on Mikel at Old Trafford a few years ago swung that particular game in United’s favour.

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Recent History

Since the turn of the century United have only succeeded in keeping a cleansheet at Stamford Bridge twice in the Premier League, once in a 0-0 draw back in May 2007 and once even further back in 2002 when Scholes, van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar provided the Reds with a 3-0 victory. Chelsea have made a flying start to this season while United have been guilty of starting games on the back foot. It wouldn’t surprise me if United went a goal down early in the game but produced another heroic comeback, and with odds of 32.00 that’s got to be worth a flutter and certainly where Ian from @Red_Rants’ money’s going.

My Prediction

This game is a real humdinger on paper, but as we know, paper rarely corresponds to reality. What can be confidently predicted is that chances will be created by both teams and both should score, as long as they are focused and on their game. Simply because of Chelsea’s superior form, and Manchester United’s aversion to winning at Stamford Bridge, I’m going for a 2-1 Chelsea win, with Torres scoring the decisive goal. Yet, as we have found this season, where there is a Robin van Persie, there is a way.

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42 Comments

  1. If RVP scores then he will become the outright top opposition goalscorer at Stamford Bridge, he currently has 5 goals there. I’m dreading the midfield battle, but RVP’s very presence fills me with hope. C’mon lads, do us proud.

  2. I wouldn’t mind seeing a 4-1-4-1 where Carrick holds/sweeps, an off centered diamond of Cleverly, Anderson, Valencia and Rooney, and RVP playing very high to keep their MF on their toes.

    With Carrick playing in front of the back line we can snuff out the danger of Evra and Rafael being caught too far up the pitch.
    Not very sexy, but it’s a careful approach to a difficult game.

  3. FYI:

    On the 29th of October, 2011, RvP scored a hat-trick against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in Arsenal’s famous 5-3 win… tomorrow’s game is the 1-year anniversary of that game.

    Money on RvP and United win 😉

  4. The United midfield have also been criticised for not protecting them but, in fact, when you break down the passing statistics, it reveals something different. There have been 792 passes completed in United’s defensive third by opposition teams — that’s the fewest of any other team in the top flight.

  5. Well we look much better as a team with a bit of width back in the side. Very good team effort and some real fluency and imagination in our passing.

  6. What a free kick by Chelsea. And there goes our composure out of the window. As so often seems to be the case we play great against Chelsea first half. The real challenge will be surviving the second half especially now Chelsea have pulled a goal back.

  7. i love our physicality in this match but i now see the problem with it… the ref wont give united anything.

  8. Outstanding clinical 30-35 minutes: we kept possession, passed well, moved well, defended as a team.

    … then we started getting sloppy with passing, lost possession, and Rooney thinks he is Paul Scholes with his tackling. Cleverley and Young showed lack of composure in last 10-15 minutes with some poor touches and positioning.

    Let’s see if Fergie can fix this and bring us back performing well.

    COME ON YOU REDS!

  9. Fantastic first 30 mins, then we seemed to revert back to our careless zombie passing, sat too deep and invited them onto us and then surprise, they score.
    Keep fuckin at em. Their defence as has been proved, is easily penetrated. Valencia and rafael have given cole a torrid time.
    Dont ease up, go for the kill, because we all know with this defence of ours sitting back hoping to hold onto what weve got, its only a matter of time before they score.

  10. lol at the crying for chealsa 🙄 you are either a fan of diving or you are happy the ref made the call.

  11. Yes, the midfield can be bullied but we are the best counter-attacking team in the country. GOLAZO CHICHO GOLAZO

    FUCKIN GET IN

  12. We’re Man United and we do whatever the fuck we want 🙂 (as a side note Rvp is truly truly a great striker, one of the greatest no9s I’ve seen for a long, long, time.)

  13. Chelsea really are full of vicious little shits like Luiz, Torres, Ramires, Cole, Hazard etc. I’ve never seen that much cheap after-tackles and manhandling.

    RVP was simply outstanding today, an absolute beast of a lone striker. This is why we should only start with RVP and Rooney, and bring on Hernandez when we need a goal. No more Welbeck please.

    Today was the culmination of all the bad luck, dodgy referee decisions and Chelsea cheating that have robbed us over the years at this ground and thrown right back at them. For all the crying Chelsea fans, what goes around comes around. 3 points at Stamford Bridge AT LAST.

  14. Pat Nevin crying on the BBC, Nial Quinn crying on Sky Sports, this is fantastic, makes it all the sweeter.

    • @Moscow: So looking forward to seeing all the card-carrying Liverpool fans whine on MOTD2 tonight – the ultimate satisfaction 🙂

  15. Fantastic win, but still not happy with the performance. Until the red cards, we looked just like we did at anfield a few weeks ago.
    Sitting too deep, not committing hardly anyone forward, barely keeping the ball- it was all building up to a chelsea winner.
    No disputes with the red cards, but still cant help but feel weve been bailed out once again, especially with the hernandez winner which should have been chalked off no question.
    Even 11 vs 9 we were barely dictating play, and i do wonder had the hernandez winner not been given would we have really gone on and got another goal?
    Still its good to get a win there for once, and as moscow says, no sympathy for chelski the number of questionable decisions they’ve had against us over the years.
    Just feel a little peeved that year in year out, in games such as todays, at anfield goodison etc its the same old issues, same old lack of any improvement, that has/does and will cost us again in future fixtures, which we seem to pay no attention to trying to work on.

    • @Owen: RvP as, I agree with Gary Neville, that De Gea was poorly positioned on the excellent freekick. Also, his poor clearance in first half almost gifted Chelsea an equalizer…

      De Gea pulled of a couple magnificent saves including the Torres header… but RvP had a foot in EVERY one of our goals and in the first red card with a clever pass to Young. Carrick was excellent too…

      RvP has been magnificent so far this season. Breath of extremely fresh air and a class above everyone: passing, holding ball, shooting, heading… is there anything this guy cannot do?

      Best impact-signing since Stam? Ronaldo? Hargo?

  16. Cleverley was absolutely shocking today, I was literally screaming for him to come off, he didnt really suit playing in a midfield two to be honest…How about Robin Van Persie, hes already our best player by miles! What a performance, we have lacked such cutting edge and seeing him up there makes me wonder what we did before!lol

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