Manchester United vs Chelsea – Old Trafford – Sunday 26th October – 16:00 KO
Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United host league leaders Chelsea this Sunday in one of the most anticipated games of the season so far. The West London side come into the game following an impressive 6-0 victory over NK Maribor in the week and are still unbeaten in this season’s Premier League. United’s own form remains up and down following a disappointing draw away at West Brom on Monday night.
Wayne Rooney will be unavailable again as the club captain serves the final game of of his three match ban, and Van Gaal has also confirmed that Michael Carrick will be unlikely to feature with the Englishman included in the u21 squad for Friday night’s game against West Ham United. Both Antonio Valencia and Jonny Evans are also still unavailable but the big news is that record signing Angel Di Maria is fit enough to play after picking up a knock on Monday night at The Hawthorns. With all this considered, this is how United could line up on Sunday:
David De Gea will be the first name on the team sheet yet again. United’s number one was powerless to prevent either goal on Monday night and will hopefully be kept on his toes with ex-Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes looking set to be offered a contract by the club.
United’s defensive frailties continued in Birmingham on Monday night and the manager has some big decisions on his hands. Rafael Da Silva was at fault for West Brom’s second goal but with Antonio Valencia still sidelined then he will more than likely get the nod. At left-back Luke Shaw also looked shaky on Monday and I have got a feeling Van gaal would be tempted to go with Daley Blind if the Dutchman wasn’t as vital to United’s midfield as he currently is. As a result Shaw may get the nod by default. Both full-backs will have to be at the top of their game defensively with the threat of Hazard and Oscar.
In the centre of United’s defense I expect Marcos Rojo to continue. The Argentine’s pace could be vital when dealing with the threat of Costa if the Spanish striker recovers from a stomach bug in time to play. Alongside Rojo I expect Phil Jones to gain his second successive start. The 22-year-old looked far from assured on Monday night but I expect an improved performance having got 90 minutes under his belt.
As mentioned already, Daley Blind’s defensive attributes will be vital for United this Sunday as they try and cope with arguably the league’s strongest midfield. The Dutchman will hopefully be able to null the threat of Cesc Fabregas and stop the Spaniard adding to his impressive tally of assists so far this season. Alongside Blind I expect Marouane Fellaini to get his first start of the season after impressing on Monday night following his entrance and even grabbing a goal. His strength may be a useful asset this Sunday.
Having recovered from the knock picked up at The Hawthorns, Angel Di Maria will hopefully be in inspiring form again on Sunday. United’s number 7 will hopefully get the Chelsea defence on the back foot and will be absolutely vital in forcing the Red’s up the pitch on Sunday and hitting their opponents on the counter attack. Also forming part of United’s midfield I think will be Ander Herrera. The ex-Bilbao man’s work rate will be another crucial attribute and I expect him to be favoured ahead of Juan Mata because of this.
Robin Van Persie put in a big shift Monday night and was unlucky not to grab a goal after his volley crashed against the post. Despite working hard however he looked isolated on occasions and as a result I expect Radamel Falcao to be deployed alongside him again on Sunday. The pair seemed to link up well after the Columbian was brought on Monday and it should be noted that last time Falcao played against the West London side he netted no less than four goals in the UEFA Super Cup.
Predicted Starting XI:
(1) De Gea;
(2) Rafael, (4) Jones, (5) Rojo, (3) Shaw;
(17) Blind, (31) Fellaini;
(21) Herrera, (7) Di Maria;
(9) Falco, (20) Van Persie.