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A few words ahead of the Chelsea fixture…

by Sam Peoples

So, Chelsea at Old Trafford. Over the past few years, this has always been the most hotly anticipated fixture home fixture of the season and last year was no different. United needed to win to stop Chelsea’s late run of good form and a goal a piece from Hernandez and Vidic set up a fantastic 2-1 victory, despite the efforts of Dider Drogba. Good news ahead of kick-off is that Dider Drogba will take no part in the game: the injury he suffered against Norwich has kept him out since and he won’t be making his return this weekend, which will be music to the ears of any United fan as Drogba has always made himself the most dangerous Chelsea player at Old Trafford in recent matches. His absence means that Chelsea will more than likely give an appearance to Fernando Floppes who has still yet to live up to any sort of promise that his £50 million price-tag held. For me, I hope he gets a full 90 minutes as I think that Sturridge and Anelka both pose more of a direct threat to David De Gea‘s goal than Fernando does.

Speaking of De Gea, SAF confirmed straight after the Benfica fixture that David is still United’s number 1 despite a good performance for Lindegaard and he never had any intention of dropping the young Spaniard to the bench. He has made some assured performances and stands, statistically, as the best goalkeeper thus far in the Premier League in the EA Sports Player Index. His distribution is shining through and his shot stopping ability is living up to the great promise it held before his lucrative move from Atletico Madrid this summer. As far as who is going to play in front of him in defence, SAF finds himself spoilt rotten for choices. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have now cemented themselves as two of England’s best defensive prospects and assured performances from both in United’s dominant start to the season will surely see both gain a start again against Chelsea. Jones is likely to partner either Ferdinand or Evans, depending on who SAF chooses for the game, and Patrice Evra should complete what would be a very strong defence. It is incredible to think how well United have coped without our indomitable captain Nemanja Vidic after he has remained on the sideline for weeks now but the strength and quality of the replacements is a testament to how well SAF has done in building another squad at United.

United will see a likely starting return to the Premier League for Michael Carrick tomorrow as Tom Cleverley will remain injured for the next 3 weeks. It is such a crying shame that Tom was assaulted by Davies last week as the partnership he was forging with Anderson was nothing short of magical. They brought a fluidity and remarkably composed feel to what was the most attacking central midfield partnership United had seen in recent years. I just hope that Michael Carrick‘s return to the team does not mean a return to a pragmatic approach for us in the Premier League, much like we saw against Benfica in midweek. It is unlikely that SAF will give Fletcher his first start in such a massive fixture but we could see a cameo from the Scottish captain in the last 20 minutes to inject some energy into the team towards the end of the game.

If SAF was spoilt for choice in his defensive choices, then there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the plethora of fantastic choices that he has in terms of attacking midfielders. A supreme start to his United career has seen Ashley Young‘s stock shoot up and he is now held in great esteem by many a critic who felt he wasn’t strong enough to step up to the United squad, myself included. The consistency he provides is phenomenal and with 5 assists and 3 goals in his first 4 games, he has been a revelation in helping United score 18 goals in their first 4 games of the season. I cannot see SAF leaving Young on the bench after he was rested midweek against Benfica. As for who will play on the other wing, I think SAF will choose to give Antonio Valencia his first start to the season and leave Nani on the bench. Nani won’t put in enough challenges going back and helping the defensive side of the team and that is why Tony should get the nod ahead of him. It might even be the case that Park Three-Lung will get a starting berth but whoever it is, they will have to show the kind of dynamic attacking game that has seen the United front 3 show great versatility in switching positions continually throughout the game as that has been United’s greatest strength so far this season, their unpredictability. Try and stop Ashley Young, Rooney will punish you. Try and stop Rooney, Anderson will burst through the middle and support him. Try and stop Nani, Smalling or Jones will overlap and continue the attack. Chelsea will have their hands very busy if they are going to keep United out.

A return to the team for Hernandez should spark Rooney into the next level, if he hasn’t already been there for a while! 2 hat-tricks in 2 weeks has seen Rooney score 8 goals in the first 4 fixtures this season and if he continues at this scoring rate, he will have 76 by the end of the season. Not bad. Rooney is thoroughly enjoying working with Young and has struck an early understanding with his England compatriot that we all hope will last for an entire season but if they can continue their partnership and introduce Hernandez to create a deadly triangle, then United may well find that 18 goals in 4 games is just the beginning. Hernandez is such a predator in the box and his fantastic start to his United career means that early comparisons to Ruud Van Nistelrooy and what he did with United in such a short space of time are impossible to avoid. The young Mexican is maturing and bettering himself with every game that he plays and that is what is so exciting about him: he is far from the finished product yet managed to score 20 goals in his first season. What can he do after learning the game from the best manager in the world for a couple of seasons? He has the world at his feet and lucky for us, he is doing it in United colours.

Chelsea are coming to Old Trafford at the best time for us. Unbeaten since Chelsea cheated United 2 seasons ago with an offside Drogba goal, we are a force to be reckoned with at home and when combined with the blistering start to the season that United have had, I have never felt so confident that we will emerge with 3 points tomorrow. There is no doubt that Chelsea will provide the greatest challenge to us so far but the exuberance of youth and the confidence that it has instilled in the veins of this United team should see United’s freight train batter through the Chelsea defences. What will the score be? Rooney should continue his hot streak and get on the score-sheet, a prediction made even more likely by the return of Hernandez who compliments his style of game so well and brings out the best of him. I hope that Anderson will continue his fine start to the season and cap it off with another goal, so I am going to put down a 3-1 victory because Chelsea being Chelsea, they will always get a goal somehow. This should be an exciting Super Sunday once again, bring on the football.

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