“It doesn’t matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago or four years ago. We have three games left and we’re three points ahead. We’re on the same goal difference and we’re playing at home.”
The Sir Alex Ferguson battle cry has gone up, as the heavily mooted “title-decider” arrives this Sunday. Even the nerves of the most confident and positive supporter are being tested to the full.
The Pensioners arrive at Old Trafford with momentum behind them, vigourously fighting back from a 15 point gap only three months ago, to be in with a shout of topping the table on Sunday evening if they win.
But as Sir Alex points out, this game is in our back yard. We’re the bullfighters with the red rags, and they have to come at us, all guns blazing, and get something. Otherwise it’s season over. No trophies, no pride, nothing.
If you’re nervous as a red, imagine what the blues will be like right now.
Sir Alex has already said hinted he’ll make tweaks from the team that smashed Schalke in midweek. In his press conference, the manager said: “There’s a chance I will make one or two changes for Sunday to the Champions League game but, it won’t be to our detriment.”
Michael Carrick and Ji Sung Park formed a very effecctive partnership in the two Champions League victories over Chelsea, and the fact they were rested in midweek could mean that they are called upon once again to boss the midfield. Their job will be to cancel out the likes of Lampard, Essien and Mikel. I think Valencia will take up the space on the right, although I can’t even come to predict who’ll take up the 4th midfield spot. Darren Fletcher is likely to make the bench again as he completes his recovery from a serious virus, and Ryan Giggs is fit again too. Giggs, Nani or Anderson could vie for the 4th midfield spot, but any of them could fit in to a system against Chelsea. I think Scholes will be on the bench.
Chelsea will have a back four of Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry and Cole. Luiz was missing from the Champions League game, but was certainly noticeable in the defeat in the Premiership on 1st March. Stong, skillful, creative, and a little bit niggly – Chelsea will probably prove a tougher nut to crack this time round.
Wayne Rooney has come back to life just at the right moment. I think it’s fair to say he’s had 12 months in the wilderness, but his all round game is pretty much back to where it was prior to March 2010. Maybe the up turn in Rooney’s fortunes will counter the strength of David Luiz? Rooney will be called upon to play deep at times, and help shackle the Chelsea midfield. If you want to stop Chelsea, the key thing to do to them is grind their midfield to a halt. If they don’t perform, neither do Chelsea.
As a result of Rooney dropping back, I think Chicharito will again take his place upfront.
Men to watch:
David Luiz – if you were asked to name a creative centre back, this would be the guy who springs to mind. Looking like a snip at £21million, Ancelotti certainly pulled off a trick in un-earthing him. Strong, hard, and not the easiest to play against, he took Wayne Rooney out at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season and was lucky not to earn a second yellow card before putting the blues back on level terms in their subsequent victory.
Florent Malouda – For me, one of the blues best players, and often under-rated, unless you’re a Chelsea fan. Since signing from Lyon in 2007, the 30 year old left winger has been a regular on the scoresheet (a ratio of one goal every three and a little bit games), and he’s got skills and surprises in his locker that make you wonder why he’s not one of the Chelsea “big” names.
Didier Drogba – You can’t discount this guy. Showed what he’s capable of after coming on as a substitute at Old Trafford and smashing the ball in to the net to get an equaliser in the Champions League. Can be moody, opposition fans love to hate him, and he is a niggly player too. But he’s dangerous, and definitely key to Chelsea’s visit on Sunday.
Fernando Torres – Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Nah, just joking.
Chelsea travel to Old Trafford after dropping four points from their last 15 away from home, and have let in five goals. Two questionable goals last week against Spurs gave them victory there, but they come to us with the form, and the luck needed if you’re wanting to be champions.
We’ve won four and lost three of our last eight. At home, we’ve won 16 games and drawn one. Seeing off teams such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City already. Wheras our away form has been frustrating this year, our home form can’t be knocked.
Man in the middle:
Howard Webb takes charge for this one. A good referee, had an excellent World Cup, but we know from experience that when he referee’s these big encounters he can be too late to show a yellow card to calm things down. The psychology behind that is obvious in that he wants to keep the spectacle of the occasion about the two teams, but sometimes an early card, when deserved, enhances the spectacle. Webb doesn’t do that, and his appointment may see a feisty battle ensue for the first 20 minutes.
Mr Webb has awarded penalties to United in three of the last four games he has officiated at Old Trafford.
So, number 19 is not that far away. Ancelotti still has the Premiership trophy on his sideboard, but this is the day where we snatch it from his hands, making Stamford Bridge a venue similar to Wastelands. The game will be tough, stressful, and maybe not that exciting to watch, but it’s important for Unied fans to be behind the team from the start, and completely contrast the atmosphere that was present against Schalke.
Wherever you’re watching the game, enjoy it. And believe.