This weekend will be huge for the managers of both sides, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces off against Frank Lampard at Old Trafford. This was the opening fixture of the 2019/20 campaign and Manchester United were convincing 4-0 winners. There were doubts about the two men’s ability to take their respective clubs forward and those remain in some form. The start of the season hasn’t been convincing for either and a victory over a rival would be huge. Likewise, a defeat this weekend will increase the pressure. It is early in the season, but this feels like a defining fixture for these two clubs.
Manchester United went into the international break in crisis, following a 6-1 loss to Tottenham. However, they have bounced back well with victories over Newcastle United and PSG, scoring six goals and conceding twice, both own goals. They were worthy winners in both matches and Solskjaer has once again started to put an end to the rumours about his job security. During the week, they set up with three centrebacks and they may look to retain that formation against Chelsea. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles offered good width, while the defence was solid against two of the best attackers in the world. Incredibly, they go into their first home match since the Tottenham debacle with confidence and momentum.
There was a lot of optimism over the truncated summer, as Chelsea spent a lot of money to improve their squad. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were regarded as two of the most exciting players in Germany. The arrival of the pair was seen as a coup for the Blues and a statement of intent that Roman Abramovich wanted the team to push on. That has increased the expectation level for Lampard.
Although it remains early, a return of eight points from five matches is a little disappointing. In the matches against West Brom and Southampton, their inability to defend quick transitions punished them. A team serious of challenging for major honours would have won both of those matches. There needs to be an improvement in their defence and consistency if Lampard is going to secure his long-term job security.
- Bruno Fernandes has been involved in an incredible 20 goals since his arrival in January. That includes 11 goals and nine assists.
- Chelsea are now conceding an average of 1.5 goals per game in the league under Lampard. This is the worst rate under any manager in the Premier League era.
The Manchester United forward has looked back to his best after the international break, as he has been given more freedom in attack. Last weekend against Newcastle, he was given license to roam due to Anthony Martial’s suspension. Rashford looked back the player he was at this time last season, during which he dragged Manchester United to some key results before the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. He has taken a backseat role since the signing of the Portuguese international, but this was partly due to the back injury he suffered. Post lockdown, there was still some lingering effects from the injury as he built up his fitness. He is now back at his devastating best, as shown by his 11 shots and four key passes across the last two matches. Against Newcastle, he managed to get two assists and a goal in the last ten minutes to secure the three points. During the week, his influence was even more important as he grabbed the winning goal against PSG for the second successive meeting with the French champions. He regularly got in behind their defence and was the biggest threat for Solskjaer’s side. Chelsea are known for the defensive frailties against quick transitions. Rashford will be a major thorn in their side on Saturday.
The USA international has had 12 months at Stamford Bridge already, but he still feels like a relatively new addition to the squad. Last season, he accrued only 1727 minutes for the Blues in the Premier League. Injuries have impacted at the beginning of this campaign and the arrivals have cast doubts over his playing time. However, those that have seen the American’s development since his arrival will believe that Chelsea are stronger when he is in the eleven. Over time, supporters will hope that Lampard is brave enough to play Hakim Ziyech, Havertz, Pulisic and Werner in the same team. Despite it being unlikely this weekend, it will be expected that the former Dortmund attacker will start. He has played the last two matches for the Blues and he should now be getting closer to full fitness. On Saturday, his energy and direct style will cause problems for the Manchester United defence. This could be a good time for him to secure his place in the team for the long term.
Anthony Martial will serve the second match of his ban, so he will be unavailable for this weekend. However, Manchester United are hoping that Harry Maguire, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood will be available to feature for the home side. Eric Bailly remains on the long term injury list.
Chelsea are coming into the match with a squad that is nearly at full strength. Billy Gilmour will be out until next month, but the other early season injured players have since recovered. Edouard Mendy and Thiago Silva played during the week. Both could return to the Premier League team this weekend.
This could be one of the most exciting matches of the weekend with a lot riding on it for both managers. If either team manages to win, it will improve how their start of the season is viewed by others. It would be expected that both compete for top four finishes, despite some early dropped points and doubts over the managers. Neither team is settled going into the fixture, therefore it is difficult to back either one of them to win. Therefore, a score draw looks to be a good bet.
Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea