It may be early in the season, but victory at Old Trafford on Monday night would be a big psychological boost for our title fight, as well as giving us an early points advantage over both Manchester clubs. While we have played once more than United in the league, it would still be a great early blow to them if we could go six points clear of them at this stage. City’s defeat away at Cardiff would see us go clear of them by the same margin as well.
Mourinho sides always tend to start well, his previous time with us was indicative of this, and this early momentum can be so important. If we could claim all three points, it would be a blow to both City and United to look at the table and see Chelsea already six points clear of them both.
While it is very early doors for Mourinho’s second spell at the helm, positive changes can be seen in comparison to last seasons Chelsea side. Patience in possession is one of the key features to see when we have the ball, which is a breath of fresh air in comparison to Chelsea under Benitez.
An inability to play out from the back, or break down the opposition resulted in long balls played forward from the back to often. ‘Resting in possession’ as Jose once deemed it, has seen movement of the ball across the back line and midfield until openings can be made. Another pleasing sight for our support has been the license for Lampard to play higher up the pitch when we have possession. While on paper we have used a 4-2-3-1 formation so far, Lampard has been a lot further forward in attack helping us to better link the midfield to attack, and providing another option for Oscar, Hazard, et al to combine with. The shape is more akin to the 4-3-3 of Mourinho’s first tenure, at least when we are attacking.
As far as the centre forward position goes, Torres and Ba have been used from the start respectively in our first two matches. Lukaku has come on from the bench, but I would expect him to start at Old Trafford. Mourinho has always used the players in his respective squads when he feels they are best suited to certain situations. Looking at the first three fixtures, I think Lukaku was always earmarked for this match. As the Special One reinforces everywhere he manages, the squad have to work as one, and for the greater good of the team. You may not play all the time, but you are of vital importance and must perform when called upon. Lukaku ended his loan spell with West Brom by scoring a hat trick against Manchester United in a 5-5 draw. This won’t have escaped Mourinho. Even if Lukaku does become our first choice centre forward this season, Torres and Ba will feature in matches that Mourinho believes they are better suited to.
The backline has remained unchanged in our opening matches, and will more than likely remain so for this fixture. Ivanovic was outstanding against Villa, while Terry and Cahill are working well in partnership.
Having watched Manchester United’s opener away to Swansea, I think the key to us defeating them will be in the midfield. Cleverly and Carrick can both be exposed by the trickery of our attacking options, whoever starts for us behind the striker. If Lampard can play further forward to add another advanced midfield option when the time is right, I think we can give them too much to deal with. Against Swansea neither Carrick or Cleverly managed to prevent Jonjo Shelvey from finding large amounts of space behind them, and Swansea dictated possession comfortably for the first half hour. Swansea were let down by a lack of cutting edge in the final third, something that should be our strong point. Manchester United will need whoever plays behind Van Persie to do his share of defending, closing down our deep midfielders, as they will not want Carrick or Cleverly to be pulled forward, leaving space behind for Mata, Hazard, Oscar, or De Bruyne to take advantage of. This is where we can win the match. Welbeck did nothing defensively for them in that role against Swansea, and was swapped with Giggs in that position for the second half. The player who has done best for them against us before in this position, ironically is Wayne Rooney, who has shown good work rate to close down defensively, and also be extremely hard to defend against in the hole behind the striker. Expect him to start behind Van Persie, who was clinical to say the least against Swansea. We will need to limit his scoring chances, but if we can play in the manor we have in our opening fixtures, I think wee can do that and more.
Come on the Chels