Manchester United vs Chelsea
Premier League – Monday 26th August, 2013 (20:00 KO BST) – Old Trafford, Manchester
Jonny Evans ahead of the first home game of the season: “It’s important to get off to a good start, especially when it’s your first home game and the manager’s first competitive game at Old Trafford. It is always important to get off to a good start and lay down a marker for the rest of the season.”
Rafael, while suspension-free, misses out with a hamstring injury. Phil Jones may fill in at right-back, unless David Moyes decides to deploy him in a midfield position, meaning Chris Smalling is likely to deputise. Evans himself is fit again and will earn, at the very least, a place on the bench. Wayne Rooney, amid fervent speculation about his future, could be left out entirely. However, with a fruitful cameo against Swansea under his belt, he should be physically able to be involved. Elsewhere, Nani (groin) and Ashley Young (ankle) remain out, meaning Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs should start in the wide positions. Danny Welbeck could be deployed out wide, of course, with Giggs tucking in. Javier Hernandez, so often the scourge of Chelsea, will very likely miss the game with a hamstring niggle of his own. Do not be surprised to see United line-up just as they did at Swansea City last weekend.
Predicted Line-up: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Jones, Carrick, Valencia, Giggs, Welbeck, van Persie
Returning Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, talks United: “In my first time at Chelsea they had Roy Keane, Scholes, players with big history there. Now they have still players from my time, like Ferdinand, Vidic, Giggs, and they have this always mixed with very good young players… With that winning culture, that makes the basis of big clubs. And they are a big club for many, many years. They have everything.”
Chelsea’s one and only real doubt comes in the shape of David Luiz, who may or may not overcome a hamstring injury in time to play. Otherwise, Jose Mourinho has a fully-fit squad of players at his disposal. The Portuguese manager has leant on experience on his return to the club, with Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard (all survivors from his previous spell in charge) having started both games so far. Expect to see the same at Old Trafford. With none of their strikers yet to score, it will be interesting to see which of Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku or Demba Ba starts up front. It will be one from those three. Chelsea have won both of their fixtures thus far (an extra home game squeezed in before their Super Cup appearance) but Aston Villa ran them very close last time out.
Predicted Line-up: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Lampard, Ramires, Hazard, Oscar, Mata, Torres
Referee: Martin Atkinson. The 42-year-old took charge of Liverpool’s opening day victory over Stoke, where he gave out 2 yellow cards and awarded one penalty (missed by Jon Walters). Last season he brandished a total of 90 yellow cards across 24 Premier League games, sending off just a single player (Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote). He was the man in the middle when United won 3-2 at the Etihad last season.
Assistants: P Kirkup, S Long
Fourth Official: Mike Dean
Recent meetings at Old Trafford
United 0-1 Chelsea (05-05-13) – United 2-2 Chelsea (10-03-13) – United 3-1 Chelsea (18-09-11) – United 2-1 Chelsea (08-05-11) – United 2-1 Chelsea (12-04-11)
Should he feature, Ryan Giggs will make an incredible 50th appearance vs Chelsea.
Rio Ferdinand is set to make his 300th league appearance for Manchester United.
He always scores against Chelsea: Javier Hernandez has 7 goals in 12 appearances vs the Blues. He won’t add to his total this time.
United have not lost the first home match of the season since 1992 – a 3-0 defeat to Everton.
United lost three Premier League games at Old Trafford last season – the highest number since 2003-04.
Frank Lampard has missed 2 of his last 3 penalties after scoring the previous 10 in a row.
United have won only 1 of the last 6 matches vs Chelsea.
Manchester United’s record vs a Jose Mourinho Chelsea is terrible: 1 win in 9.
In 42 Premier League matches between the two clubs, there have only ever been three 0-0 draws (April 1995; December 1998; May 2007).
Any sort of victory will see United go top of the Premier League table.
Score prediction: United 2-2 Chelsea