David Moyes faces a baptism of fire in his first home game as Manchester United manager when Chelsea visit Old Trafford in a match which has been tipped to establish a status quo in the division, separating the pretenders from the contenders.
United have not fared particularly well against Chelsea in the Abramovich era with the Londoners inflicting more defeats on United than any other Premier League team. The teams finished with a win apiece last season, Javier Hernandez netting a late winner in a controversial 3-2 victory at the Bridge and Juan Mata scoring the solitary goal in a 1-0 win in April.
Pre-match, much talk has been about the Moyes-Mourinho rivalry which could be prominent in years to come, You get the sense that Mourinho had his nose put out of joint somewhat after he didn’t get a look in when Sir Alex Ferguson stood down in May.
Jose’s love for the polemic remains as strong as ever, something which many United fans find unpalatable, and the English media’s undying loyalty to the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ has led to a rather irritating build-up to the match, with Wayne Rooney still being tapped up almost daily.
An interesting sub-plot is the ongoing saga over Rooney’s future. United have proved to be capable without Rooney so far but with the 27-year-old nearing full fitness and impressing in a cameo at Swansea, the proposition of unleashing a fired-up Rooney on Chelsea’s perhaps suspect back line may prove to be enticing for David Moyes.
Should Rooney start, one would assume that Ryan Giggs would be the man to drop out of the starting eleven. Shinij Kagawa is also nearing full fitness after his globe-trotting exploits with Japan over the summer.
Jonny Evans, who featured for the reserves in a midweek victory against West Brom, could also feature if David Moyes opts for a centre back with greater speed and mobility than Rio or Vidic. The inclusion of Evans would allow United to play a higher defensive line, knowing that they would be less vulnerable to counter attacks. Rafael is still out injured, while Ashley Young, Nani and Petr Cech tormentor Javier Hernandez are doubtful.
David Luiz is the only doubt for Chelsea who will be looking to continue their 100% start to the season with a third win in as many games. New signing Willian will not feature. With Fernando Torres and Demba Ba unimpressive against Hull and Aston Villa, Romelu Lukaku is likely to start and could be a handful for United’s defence given his impressive physical and technical capabilities.
United certainly have the ability to cause Chelsea plenty of problems but it will be a tight game no matter what the result is and while Mourinho persists with using John Terry and Gary Cahill at centre back, there is a distinct possibility Van Persie and co will score.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea