Can it really be a ‘big one’ if it occurs before September is even over? With the new season less than two months old, Chelsea travel to the Premier League title holders, Manchester United, with apparently everything already on the line. Despite the gigantic elephant in the room which is Manchester City, both United and Chelsea have acknowledged each other as major title challengers over the past few days.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have shown their hand already in this league campaign, dispatching their opposition with style and then some. After a shy start away against West Brom, United let loose with a 3-0 win against Spurs and the most recent 5-0 thumping of Bolton; both wins sandwiching the terrifying 8-2 victory at home to Arsenal which saw five different scorers and the first of Wayne Rooney’s two Premier League hat-tricks in 2011/12. A 1-1 Champions League draw in Portugal against Benfica on Wednesday may have slowed the Red Devils’ charge somewhat, but it shouldn’t linger in the minds of Rooney and co for too long.
Tom Cleverley, Nemanja Vidic, Rafael and Danny Welbeck will miss out through injury, while Rio Ferdinand should return to a United backline which has been breached twice so far this season at Old Trafford. Fernando Torres isn’t a Manchester United player, but including him in this paragraph is the safest place to mention him, as it does not take attention away from his Chelsea team-mates, nor does it mean that the entire preview is based on his lack of goals in a Chelsea shirt. United’s reserve ‘keeper Anders Lindegaard promised that he is ready to fight David de Gea for the number one shirt at Old Trafford, emphatically stating: “I’m not here to pick my nose.” He is likely to be digging for green gold on the bench on Sunday, however.
Chelsea’s midweek performance was typical of their start to the season; a 2-0 win based on hard work and a good team ethic securing the points and a mini-morale boost ahead of their trip to the north-west. Juan Mata continued his bubbly start to his Blues career with an excellent performance in a free role, while Raul Meireles continues to prove the sceptics wrong with a dependable game in the middle. John Terry and Frank Lampard have hopefully recovered from the shock of being rested, and are ready to return to the starting XI, however the game should come too soon for the recently concussed Didier Drogba, whose recuperation has not been as speedy as Andre Villa-Boas would have hoped. David Luiz marked his return to the defence with a well-taken goal on Tuesday, taking his tally to three goals in thirteen games, with Manchester United amongst the clubs to have felt his wrath.
Last season saw five meetings between the two clubs, with Chelsea winning just one of these games. A 2-1 win back in March – courtesy of that goal by Luiz, followed by a Lampard penalty – was the only bright spark for Blues fans, as United got the better of Chelsea on their way to the Premier League title and a Community Shield win, plus the Champions League final. The matches have been tight as far as the scoreline goes though, as six out of the last seven games have finished with just a single goal the difference between the sides.
Phil Dowd referees the match on Sunday, and after showing 28 yellow cards in his five games so far this season, David Luiz better look out! He also dished out twelve reds in 38 appearances throughout last season. In three Chelsea matches he officiated last season, the Blues won just one.
Villas-Boas promises he is eyeing a win. The arrogance of youth, or the boast of a man with the utmost faith in his squad? The season won’t be over following the meeting of Manchester United and Chelsea, but it may really get going after all is said and done at Old Trafford on Sunday.