This has been billed as win or bust by a lot of people — especially United fans. Not since the era of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (at their peak) have we gone into a match against Chelsea with the billing of underdogs. And for good reason.
Most fans — as is their wont as fans — hope their side will come good somehow against Chelsea. But rational thinking paints a grim picture. Chelsea, have been good for most of this season — even though they’ve faced reverses against some of the smaller sides. Their transfer ban has been lifted for January, yet theirs is a side showered with riches in midfield, and a frighteningly good Drogba, in frighteningly good form. As much as most of their squad consist of eminently detestable players, they have been annoyingly hard to beat. An astonishing statistic that screams out reads: six years; zero wins for United at the Bridge. Six years! Bloody hell! That’s astonishing and annoying in equal measure.
Among the key players for today’s outing includes one Darren Fletcher, who’s spoken at length about his fitness and gym work in the pre-season:
“Fitness has never been a problem for me, but in terms of strength and power my gym work has made a real difference.
“Striking the right balance is important, too. There’d be no point in me bulking up if that was to the detriment of being able to get around the pitch. I wanted to get to a level where I had strength, but also the stamina to keep going over the 90 minutes. I think I could still put on more weight without affecting my fitness.”
Speaking of our six year drought there, Ferguson has a few words to say:
“We would like to improve our record there. It’s not been that great in the last few years. We’ve had a couple of draws but nothing more than that. We hope to improve on that. It’s strange, we used to have a terrific record at Stamford Bridge, but in the last few years we’ve let it slip. We have to get our act together. But the players realise it’s a big game and that their performance is going to be important.”
The topic veers into discussion on Carlo Ancelotti and the manager has only good things to say about him. “Ancelotti has a very experienced team,” continues Sir Alex. “And when you have that it’s maybe easier to adapt to new tactics or a new system because those players have more tactical knowledge than younger players.”
On the injury front, Vidic and Berbatov are expected to return, whilst Park, Ferdinand, and Owen Hargreaves continue to be perennial absentees. Neville, meanwhile, is suspended.
The starting XI, should then be a patched up back four with O’Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra. Giggs, Anderson, Fletcher could form a midfield three with the attack consisting of Rooney (played out wide left), Valencia and Berbatov in the front three.
Of course, that’s just what I think Ferguson might be fielding. He’ll most likely go with a 4-3-3 to counter Chelsea.
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