David Moyes would have liked to face easy opposition in his first home match in charge of Manchester United, but instead it is Jose Mourinho’s (pictured) Chelsea who travel to Old Trafford on Monday (20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports 1) in the clear pick of this weekend’s fixtures.
Moyes’ reign began with an excellent 4-1 win away to Swansea last Saturday, but the victory was not quite as comfortable as the winning margin suggests. Swansea enjoyed the lion’s share of first half possession and it was only United’s expert finishing on the counter attack that allowed them to build a two-goal lead at the break.
A controlled second half performance was given additional impetus by the arrival from the bench of Wayne Rooney, who provided the passes that led to both of the second half goals, superbly taken by Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, who ended the match with two goals apiece.
Van Persie looked as sharp as ever in front of goal, but it was the double from Welbeck that will have been more pleasing for Moyes. Welbeck scored just once in 27 appearances in the league last season and if he can add regular scoring to his hard work and good movement he is likely to become a regular fixture in the first 11.
Further back, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were strong in defence, standing firm in the face of concerted first half pressure. United did at times struggle to track the purposeful forward runs of Jonjo Shelvey, but any dangerous situations were admirably dealt with by their experienced defensive duo.
Ferdinand and Vidic both suffered from various injuries last season, causing them to start together on just nine occasions. In those matches United conceded seven goals at a rate of 0.78 per match. When they did not start together, United conceded at a rate of 1.24 goals per match. Keeping them fit is key to a good season.
Moyes does have some injury problems ahead of Monday’s match, with right-back Rafael likely to be out of action until the middle of next month and Darren Fletcher sidelined indefinitely due to a chronic bowel condition. Ashley Young, Javier Hernandez and Nani are all doubtful after missing the victory over Swansea.
His opposite number Mourinho has far less issues in this area, with only David Luiz unlikely to be available for the trip to Old Trafford. The Brazilian defender has been grappling with a nagging hamstring injury for much of pre-season and although he is making good progress will probably not be part of the squad on Monday.
Mourinho’s return to English football has been a successful one thus far, with Chelsea having taken maximum points from home matches against Hull City and Aston Villa in their hectic opening to the season brought about by their participation in next Friday’s European Super Cup final.
With a phalanx of attacking midfielders at his disposal, Mourinho has had little choice but to persevere with the 4-2-3-1 formation he employed at Real Madrid. Despite his more pragmatic leanings, Chelsea have played some very nice football in spells, particularly in the opening half hour of the 2-0 victory over Hull.
Mourinho’s pragmatism was, however, evident in the way that, having established their lead, Chelsea battened down the hatches and played very controlled football for the remainder of the match, pacing themselves to ensure the three points were taken with minimum fuss.
The Blues currently lack a striker capable of scoring 20 goals per season and the responsibility for goals is therefore likely to fall onto those further back. Fernando Torres, generally utilised as a runner in behind last season, regularly dropped off the front against Hull, acting as a decoy to pull defenders out of position and create space for midfield runners.
Chelsea’s midfield movement was interesting, with the central two, Frank Lampard and Ramires, getting forward regularly, at times in tandem, requiring the central attacking midfielder Oscar to be vigilant to help cover. Oscar performed this role diligently, but there is potential for this to be exploited by more ambitious opponents who can quickly move the ball forward on the counter attack.
Manchester United vs Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
These two clubs met on five occasions in league and cup last season, resulting in one draw, one victory for United and three for Chelsea. United have won five of the last ten league encounters between the sides at Old Trafford, with Chelsea recording three victories and two matches ending in ties.
Moyes and Mourinho have met on six previous occasions in the Premier League, with Mourinho emerging triumphant on four occasions and two matches ending in draws. In fact, Mourinho is the coach who has managed the most league matches against Moyes without losing a single fixture.
United and Chelsea look well matched at this early stage of the season and we expect to see a tight, fiercely contested match in which a draw is the most likely result.