It could get messy on Sunday. Eamonn Holmes at an all you can eat buffet messy. Everyone is aware of a possible humiliation, but there is reason to be positive. A talented and ambitious group of players, a big game manager at the helm and an electric Old Trafford atmosphere. The stage is set for a match of astronomical proportions. Eamonn Holmes proportions.
United fans are still full of optimism and hope for this team as reflected by the demand for Manchester United tickets, optimism that is not misplaced. Although the results have yet to become stable and the defensive performances have been as shaky as Rolf Harris’ alibi for his whereabouts during the 1970s, this is a team full of promise. Not just built around superstars but filled with grit and determination, motivated by a fiery Dutchman.
There is only so far promise can get you, however, and while United appear to be a work in progress, their visitors on Sunday appear to be the finished article.
United team news
This could be as close to a fully fit team United have been able to field this season.
Wayne Rooney remains suspended after his ‘captain’s performance’ against West Ham. A huge blow, but an opportunity for Falcao to step up, who has looked promising so far. Though Di Maria looked in pain as he left the field during the match against West Brom on Monday night sources indicate that he will play on Sunday.
There could be returns for Antonio Valencia, Paddy McNair, Johnny Evans and Jesse Lingard who are all reported to be back from injury this weekend. It is likely, however, that none of these players will start as Van Gaal has stressed how importantly he regards match fitness.
Chelsea team news
Chelsea currently lie 10 points clear of United and have so far been brushing teams aside as if they were goldfish running from an apache helicopter. For the first time this season though, they are facing real injury concerns.
The big question on everyone’s lips is whether Diego Costa will start. His groin injury has no current return date and after not playing any part in Chelsea’s 6-0 win over NK Maribor there is fresh doubt whether he will feature on Sunday. Reports from yesterday afternoon claim he has been released from hospital after a stomach bug but there is no word on whether he will play.
Chelsea’s strike force is further depleted as Loic Remy sustained a groined injury on Tuesday night, the visitors will be forced to play a Didier Drogba who so far has yet to re-establish himself in the Premier League.
United have won 41% of their meetings with Chelsea at Old Trafford and drawn 32% of the other games. However the most recent statistics make terrible reading for United, fans having only won six in the last 22 encounters. The fixture ending 0-0 at Old Trafford last season was arguably one of the most boring matches of modern football, a performance and result typical of the David Moyes era. No further improvement was made at Stamford Bridge where United were dismantled by a ruthless Chelsea performance who barely got out of second gear to thrash Moyes’ outfit 3-0.
Things are different this time around and United will be hoping to emulate some of the battles that we had grown accustomed to before Moyes.
United fans are more full of hope for Radamel Falcao than any other player for a long time. Everyone is desperate for him to succeed and his goal against Everton was celebrated with massive relief by Falcao himself and the United faithful. This is a real opportunity for him to make a statement and justify his reputation, his performances have looked promising so far but Sunday will be the real test as to whether he can do it at the highest level.
While it is unclear whether Costa will play one man that everyone will be trying to stop is Cesc Fabregas. Since returning to the Premier League the Spaniard has already amounted an impressive seven assists and one goal in eight appearances. United will have to pack the midfield and not allow any space for Fabregas to get into his stride.
Possible starting XI
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