Manchester United vs Chelsea: A Critical Clash for Champions League Aspirations
Clash of the Titans: Manchester United and Chelsea’s Struggle for the Top Four
This is a meeting of the two clubs that find themselves off the pace in the race for Champions League football. A win for either Manchester United or Chelsea would be huge, but a loss for either would have a devastating impact. Erik ten Hag is facing a lot of criticism for his side’s record in big matches after a poor performance against Newcastle United. Improvement will be expected at Old Trafford, but it needs to be significant to beat an improving Blues’ team. Mauricio Pochettino has seen his side compete well against the best teams this season and will feel they should have had more points from those matches.
Recent Struggles and Team Dynamics
The difference between the two teams on Saturday was huge as Manchester United were outplayed by Newcastle United. It has caused a lot of criticism of the team, especially Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. There was a public spat between Ten Hag and Martial that was caught by the TNT Sport cameras. It is clear that the management and players are not together at the moment. The manager desperately needs an improved showing on Wednesday and he may make some significant changes to the team to achieve that.
Chelsea’s Resilience and Tactical Evolution
After their own miserable showing at Newcastle recently, there was a significant improvement from Chelsea at the weekend, as they managed to battle to three points against Brighton. Considering the first half red card to Conor Gallagher, it is impressive that they managed to see the match out. In the previous match, they fell apart when Reece James was sent off at St James’ Park which caused Pochettino to criticise his players. That didn’t happen on Sunday and that shows that the messages are getting through to the squad.
Manchester United are the only team to have a negative goal difference in the top half.
Chelsea have now scored five penalties in the Premier League this season. Only Arsenal (6) have scored more.
It is during difficult times that Manchester United need their captain to step up and take responsibility. Bruno Fernandes has yet to do that this season and he has been criticised for losing his head during testing moments. This is an opportunity for him to lead his team to a victory in a massive match and prove that the weekend’s performance against Newcastle was a blip. There will be doubts about whether Marcus Rashford is trusted to start again after his poor performance on Saturday. If that is the case, Fernandes may be given more license to attack and will probably be United’s biggest goal threat. Last week, he showed his quality from range in the Champions League. He has three goals and three assists in the league. United need more from him in the coming weeks if they are to get back on track.
Raheem Sterling has been back to his best this season and looks to be reinvigorated under Pochettino. A lot of Chelsea supporters would have wanted to see him leave during the summer after an underwhelming first season, but they are now seeing the player that was at the top of the game in this country for several years. Gareth Southgate will be watching his performances closely, despite rumours of a falling out. Sterling was once a key player for England and with nobody nailing down the left wing spot, he could get back in the squad before the summer. He has five goals and one assist in the Premier League this season. Prior to the weekend, he had scored or assisted in his last four matches in all competitions. His directness will cause problems for Manchester United on Wednesday.
Mason Mount is close to a return, but he’s a doubt to face his former club. Jonny Evans and Christian Eriksen won’t be fit to play this week. They will both be available again soon though. Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro won’t be fit again until 2024.
Conor Gallagher will be suspended, but Reece James will be back from his one-match suspension. Marc Cucurella, Christopher Nkunku, Malo Gusto, Romeo Lavia and Ben Chilwell will all be back this month, but they could all still be missing for the trip to Old Trafford.
Based on their performances at the weekend, Chelsea come into this fixture with more momentum. There needs to be a significant improvement from Manchester United and it is difficult to see them being able to deliver that. The mood looks awful at Old Trafford and Chelsea’s positive approach will cause problems. The Blues could record a statement away victory.
Manchester United 1-2 Chelsea