Sun 05 May 2013 16:00 (Attendance: 75,500)
The quest for a top-four finish is down to the last four league games. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for the first of them, and a second visit to Old Trafford this season…
The government can produce figures at the drop of a hat about GDP dipping over a Bank Holiday, but work time consumed by anxious Londoners trundling through the permutations of the Premier League run-in must amount to the whole capital taking a week's vacation.
After all useful information has been squeezed from the Barclays Premier League table, the fixtures list and statistics sites, there are still the life-sapping predictor apps to feed the habit.
Yet, simply put, with a double-digit lead in goal difference over Spurs, any nine points from the 12 still available should hand Chelsea a top-four finish.
Should the Blues beat Tottenham in Wednesday's hugely important game, three points from any of the other three matches - including Man United before then - ought to suffice.
As things stand Chelsea's maximum points haul is now 77. Spurs can reach 74 and Arsenal 73.
|The race for the Champions League - Games remaining|
|Chelsea (4)||Arsenal (3)||Tottenham (4)|
|Man Utd (a)||QPR (a)||Southampton (h)|
|Tottenham (h)||Wigan (h)||Chelsea (a)|
|Aston Villa (a)||Newcastle (a)||Stoke (a)|
|Everton (h)||Sunderland (h)|
If so, consider this. Frank has netted 36 goals for Chelsea against the remaining four opponents of our Premier League campaign; that's 18 per cent of his total of 201. The split is: Manchester United six, Everton and Tottenham nine, Aston Villa 12.
Four United players were voted into the PFA's 2012/13 Premier League Team of the Year by fellow pros: De Gea, Ferdinand, Carrick and Van Persie. Chelsea, along with Spurs, had two: Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Aside from Jan Vertonghen, Hazard was the only Premier League debutant among the 11 selected.
Man United can no longer reach Chelsea's top-flight record of 95 points set in 2004/05; their maximum possible is 94 which would beat their current best of 91 over 38 games with three points for a win.
Never the less they are worthy title winners for 20th time. By coincidence Sunday marks the 23rd anniversary of the last time that once great power, Liverpool, were top-flight champions.
This is our fifth meeting of the season in league and cups with United and so far the Pensioners have won two, drawn one and lost one. Chelsea are unbeaten in the last three games, but in the Premier League Sir Alex Ferguson's side have won three and drawn one of our four most recent meetings.
The three goals against Basel that fired us to the Europa League final took our season's total to just four shy of the club's all-time record, set in the 2009/10 Double season.
Most Chelsea goals in a season
142 in 2009/10
138 in 2012/13
121 in 1964/65
117 in 1960/61 and 2006/07
112 in 2011/12
110 in 2008/09
Most Chelsea games in a season
69 in 2012/13 (played 64 to date)
64 in 2006/07
62 in 2007/08
61 in 1999/00 and 2011/12)
60 in 1965/66
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Fulham v Reading 3pm
Norwich v Aston Villa 3pm
Swansea v Manchester City 3pm
Tottenham v Southampton 3pm
West Brom v Wigan 3pm
West Ham v Newcastle 3pm
QPR v Arsenal 5.30pm - ESPN
Liverpool v Everton 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Manchester United v Chelsea 4pm - Sky Sports
Sunderland v Stoke 8pm - Sky Sports
Manchester City v West Brom 7.45pm
Wigan v Swansea 7.45pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League top half|
The race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Joe Har t15
Petr Cech 13
Asmir Begovic 12
Pepe Reina 12
Click on tabs above for more briefing,
Clive Walker examines how Chelsea might wrest a priceless three points from Manchester United's clutches.
'I imagine the mood in the Chelsea dressing room after qualifying for a second consecutive European final will be buzzing. Likewise Man United won the title a couple of weeks ago, but they have less to lose in this game.
'They cannot beat our record points tally but this being Man United, Sir Alex Ferguson will not want his players slackening off one bit. Every opportunity to land one on his rivals, he'll always want to take it. There will also be 70,000 fans wanting the same.
'Chelsea will be hoping to dominate the ball like we did in the second half of the FA Cup match up there. One thing is certain: we will play with no fear against them after the last three meetings. It is a United team we've played very well against in parts.
'Juan Mata and Oscar could come back in to the starting line-up with Ashley Cole returning after his European suspension. Demba Ba may take his place upfront after the match-winning goal at the Bridge. He has hit three in seven against Man United over his career.
'Ba has show he can trouble Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling. Or it could be Jonny Evans who has improved this year. Ba will relish facing any opponent.
'Phil Jones (pictured below) was playing as a right-back in that match but since then has been in midfield on occasions, where he sometimes finds himself in positions to score but is not a natural.
'Like Chelsea with David Luiz, there are different qualities he brings to different parts of the field. Jones is young and still to find his position or, more importantly, a partnership. Ferguson obviously likes him and sees him as one for the future. He's a good, tough player.
'In central midfield the pairing of Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick was outshone by Chelsea over much of the cup matches. Ferguson has tried a number of different partners for Carrick since, including Jones, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, looking for the right blend.
'Carrick has been a great strength this season - when they are in possession. Defensively, Cleverley can be pulled out of position and could be a reason why he likes Jones in there to shore it up.
'Eden Hazard and Ramires caused the United rearguard all sorts of problems in the 2-2 game. Ramires has hit the net in three of our last four matches against United, which is good going for a midfielder.
'Whether it's those two or Oscar and Mata in that crucial advanced role, they have to move the ball quickly to play around United's middle men.
'For them, Robin van Persie has returned to productivity again after going 750 minutes without a goal, including both our FA Cup matches. But now he's hit six in his last four and some of his goals have been outstanding and you cannot legislate for them.
'You have to give him no room to turn or set himself, no time and space to shot. If you do, like all top players he will punish you. Even in that barren spell complete concentration was required from opposing defenders.
'Another factor is the Tottenham game on the horizon - is that the more crucial game? I think Rafael Benitez will play his strongest available team for each match.'
Squad fitness news
The fitness of Eden Hazard, who was taken off as a precaution during the midweek match against Basel, and John Mikel Obi, who missed that match due to knock to his hip in training, will be assessed ahead of this game.
It is reported that Paul Scholes will be in the Man United squad for the first time since January following a knee injury. Danny Welbeck (knee) is missing but Nemanja Vidic is available following a calf strain.
Click on tabs above for more briefing,
WE HAVE HISTORY
The guard of honour for the Red Devils fulfilled last week by Arsenal will have reminded some people of the recent occasions Man United and Chelsea accorded each other the same respect.
José Mourinho's Chelsea marched out at Old Trafford in May 2005 to two lines of applauding United players and officials, Gary Neville performing the task with all the alacrity of a condemned man.
Neville's face seemed to resonate the maxim of Sir Alex Ferguson that the guard of honour should serve as a reminder that losing should hurt.
Ferguson was, yet again, treading in the footprints of his illustrious forebear, Sir Matt Busby. Fifty years earlier Sir Matt, who guested several times for the Blues during World War Two, and Old Trafford club secretary Walter Crickmer had been effusive in their praise of Ted Drake's newly crowned league winners.
'Hail the champions!,' wrote Busby in his matchday programme column. 'To Ted Drake, my old friend, and his team, I offer my heartfelt congratulations.'
The Guardian reported that on the day, just before the 'ceremonial welcome,' Crickmer 'addressed the crowd on the implications of Chelsea's rise to prominence, respectability and - if one may say so without offence - comparative state of grace.
'His call for a thunderous welcome seemed unnecessary. Chelsea's age-long popularity in Manchester had already guaranteed that.
'Soon the Manchester United players came out and arranged themselves on each side of the tunnel … manager Busby waited bare-headed and near him United's leading camp-follower, tastefully attired in red hunting coat, white flannel trousers, red and white bowler, and protected from the spring sun by the bare ribs of a coverless umbrella.
'As the band conductor's arm came down for a crashing opening chord [Roy] Bentley and his fellow champions appeared, flushed a little but grinning broadly, and obviously touched by the warmth of the welcome.'
When, after back-to-back wins for the Blues, United regained the title in May 2007, it was Chelsea's turn to clap and bear it at the Bridge.
Tradition demands the ceremony only happens in the next away game of the season, should there be one. There is no obligation after that.
Our last league win against the Red Devils came at Stamford Bridge in March 2011. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring after half an hour but second-half goals by David Luiz and a Frank Lampard penalty secured all three points.
Since our last win at Old Trafford in March 2010, United have won three and drawn one of our meetings there.
Our last 10 Premier League games against Man Utd at Old Trafford
2002/03 - Man Utd won 2-1
2003/04 - Drew 1-1
2004/05 - Chelsea won 3-1
2005/06 - Man Utd won 1-0
2006/07 - Drew 1-1
2007/08 - Man Utd won 2-0
2008/09 - Man Utd won 3-0
2009/10 - Chelsea won 2-1
2010/11 - Man Utd won 2-1
2011/12 - Man Utd won 3-1
LAST SEASON'S CORRESPONDING MATCH
Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
Barclays Premier League, Sunday 18 September 2011
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson
De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra (c); Fletcher, Anderson; Nani, Rooney, Young; Hernández.
Substitutes Carrick for Anderson (62), Valencia for Smalling (62), Berbatov for Hernández (78)
Scorers Smalling (7), Nani (36), Rooney (44)
Booked Valencia, Fletcher
Manager Andre Villas-Boas
Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Meireles, Lampard; Sturridge, Torres, Mata.
Substitutes Anelka for Lampard (h/t), Lukaku for Sturridge (67), Mikel for Meireles (78)
Scorer Torres (46)
Booked Ramires, Terry, Cole
Ref Phil Dowd
Other fixtures this season
28 October 2012 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea..……..….…2 Man Utd….……..……3
Mata 43 D Luiz og 3
Ramires 53 Van Persie 12
31 October 2012 Capital One Cup fourth round
Chelsea..……..….…5 Man Utd….……..……4
D Luiz pen 31 Giggs 21
Cahill 52 Hernández 43
Hazard pen 90+4 Nani 58
Sturridge 97 Giggs pen 120
10 March 2013 FA Cup quarter-final
Man Utd..…..….…2 Chelsea…….……..…2
Hernandez 4 Hazard 58
Rooney 10 Ramires 67
1 April 2013 FA Cup quarter-final replay
Chelsea..……..….…1 Man Utd….……..……0
Chelsea v Manchester United in all competitions
Games played 167
Chelsea wins 46
Man United wins 72
Head to head in the League at Manchester United
Games played 70
Chelsea wins 18
United wins 29
Biggest league win at Man Utd for each team
Man Utd 6-0 Chelsea - 26/12/1960
Man Utd 0-4 Chelsea - 24/08/1968
Chelsea won at Old Trafford: 1,128
United failed to score at home in the league: 1,240
Liverpool won the league: 8,401
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,906
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.
Chelsea travel to Old Trafford knowing that a haul of nine points from the remaining 12 available will guarantee a top-four finish.
We have lost one of our last seven Barclays Premier League games.
The Blues have opened the scoring in 23 Premier League matches which is a higher percentage than any other club. We have gone on to win 17 games and draw five. Only West Ham have defeated us.
The Blues are eight points better off compared to the corresponding 34 fixtures last season.
We have gained 12 points from losing positions this term and dropped 16 points from winning positions.
|Last six results|
|Apr 14||Manchester City (FA Cup Wembley)||L 1-2|
|Apr 17||Fulham (a)||W 3-0|
|Apr 21||Liverpool (a)||D 2-2|
|Apr 25||Basel (Europa League a)||W 2-1|
|Apr 28||Swansea (h)||W 2-0|
|May 2||Basel (Europa League h)||W 3-1|
Premier League scorers
Lampard 13 (5 pens), Mata 10, E Hazard 9 (2 pens), Torres 7 (1 pen), Ivanovic 5, Ramires 4, Terry 4, Oscar 3 (1 pen), Ba 2, Cahill 2, D Luiz 2, Cole 1, Marin 1, Moses 1, Sturridge 1, own goals 3. Total 68
League games since
An away win: 1
An away draw: 0
An away defeat: 2
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Wed 8 May||Tottenham home||7.45pm|
|Sat 11 May||Aston Villa away||12.45pm|
|Wed 15 May||Benfica (Europa League final) Amsterdam||7.45pm|
Ashley Cole's next appearance will be his 50th this season for club and country.
Congratulations to Yossi Benayoun who celebrates his 33rd birthday (today) Sunday.
MAN UTD STATS
Formed 1878 (as Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway FC)
20 League championships, last in 2013
11 FA Cups, last in 2004
4 League Cups, last in 2010
19 FA Charity/Community Shields (incl 4 shared), last in 2011
3 European Cups, last in 2008
1 European Cup Winners' Cup in 1991
1 UEFA Super Cup in 1991
1 Intercontinental Cup in 1999
1 FIFA Club World Cup in 2008
At home this term they have won 45 points from a possible 51 with 15 wins against Fulham, Wigan, Stoke, Arsenal, QPR, West Ham, Sunderland, Newcastle, West Brom, Liverpool, Southampton, Everton, Norwich, Reading and Aston Villa and two defeats to Tottenham and Manchester City
It is over a year since Man Utd drew a league game at Old Trafford - the 4-4 draw to Everton in April 2012.
Since Chelsea last won at Old Trafford on 3 April 2010, United have won 50 of their 57 home Premier League matches, drawing three and losing four.
Man United have scored in 66 Premier League home games since a 0-1 defeat by Aston Villa in December 2009.
Man U have gained an impressive 29 points from losing or drawing positions this term. The best record in the Premier League.
Only Everton away on the opening day and Norwich at Carrow Road in November have managed to stop United from scoring in the Premier League this term.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Days in charge: 9,677
|Red Devils' last 10 year league history|
|Last six results|
|Apr 1||Chelsea (FA Cup a)||L 0-1|
|Apr 8||Manchester City (h)||L 1-2|
|Apr 14||Stoke (a)||W 2-0|
|Apr 17||West Ham (a)||D 2-2|
|Apr 22||Aston Villa (h)||W 3-0|
|Apr 28||Arsenal (a)||D 1-1|
Premier League scorers
Van Persie 25 (3 pens), Rooney 12 (1 pen), Hernández 8, Kagawa 5, own goals 5, Evra 4, Evans 3, Rafael 3, Cleverley 2, Giggs 2, Anderson 1, Büttner 1, Carrick 1, Fletcher 1, Nani 1, Powell 1, Scholes 1, Valencia 1, Vidic 1, Welbeck 1. Total 79.
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 18
A home defeat: 1
Man United's completed January transfers
Ins Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, undisclosed)
Outs Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, loan), Bebe (Rio Ave, loan), Angelo Henriquez (Wigan, loan), Frederico Macheda (Stuttgart, loan)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Howard Webb is refereeing his fifth Chelsea match this season. His most recent was at Old Trafford in our FA Cup quarter-final. He was the official for the Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund this week.
There are no suspensions.
The Blues secured a potentially huge three points at Old Trafford, and a first win away at Manchester United since the 2009/10 campaign courtesy of a Juan Mata goal four minutes from time.
It had been a match with few clear-cut opportunities to speak of at either end, and looked to be heading for a stalemate until the Spaniard won it for us at the death with his 19th goal of the campaign.
Rafael Da Silva was shown a red card soon after following a nasty kick to the back of David Luiz as tempers threatened to boil over, but the Blues - unlike on our last visit to the north west, when we conceded a late equaliser at Liverpool - held on to move three points clear of Tottenham Hotspur.
Andre Villas-Boas' side visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for what could be a pivotal clash in the race to finish in the top four, and after this result, another three points would guarantee us qualification for next season's Champions League.
Rafael Benitez made three changes to the side which beat Basel 3-1 on Thursday. Having missed the game against the Swiss side through suspension, Ashley Cole came back into the side for Ryan Bertrand. David Luiz, having played in midfield on Thursday, moved back into a defensive role with Gary Cahill dropping down to the bench, while Demba Ba, who was ineligible in midweek, was given the nod ahead of Fernando Torres. Eden Hazard limped off late in the Basel game and missed the clash with a tight calf, replaced in the starting line-up by Juan Mata. John Mikel Obi missed a second successive match with a hip injury.
For the home side, meanwhile, Anders Lindegaard made a rare start in goal, while Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney dropped down to the bench. Robin van Persie started in attack.
The four matches between the two sides already this season had produced 19 goals, and it was the Blues who almost netted the 20th inside the opening few minutes. David Luiz played it forward to Mata on the edge of the penalty area; the Spaniard looked up and picked out Ba at the far post, but the striker was unable to adjust his body and headed over the bar.
It was a bright start by Benitez's side, and the same combination threatened once more moments later, with United scrambling to get it away in a crowded box.
The home side, though, were unsurprisingly quick to respond, and after Petr Cech struggled to hold on to a Rafael cross, Tom Cleverley fired wide with their first serious attempt.
Moses had started the game wide on the right, with Mata operating through the middle and Oscar playing on the left. It was clear from the opening stages, however, that the trio were free to switch when it suited, and the Brazilian almost broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when he was allowed to advance unchallenged, before driving low and hard against the foot of the post.
We were certainly looking a serious threat on the break and soon after allowed another opportunity to go to waste. Ramires drove at the United defence from deep before laying the ball into the path of Mata. The Spaniard took a touch and teed up Moses, but he took the shot early and fired high over the bar into the Stretford End.
At the other end, meanwhile, the warning signs remained, and a teasing Phil Jones cross from the right had a fraction too much pace on the delivery for the arriving Anderson and the ball was allowed to run harmlessly out of play.
It was the Blues seeing more of the ball, and as the half-hour mark approached Ba fizzed a strike marginally wide of Lindegaard's far post after cutting in from the left-hand side.
United's biggest threat for much of the first half had stemmed from their crosses from wide areas, and Cech had to be alert to punch away another dangerous ball, this time from Ryan Giggs, with Van Persie ready to pounce.
Having performed well for much of the opening period, we appeared to lack a cutting edge in the final third, with moves regularly breaking down in and around the United penalty area, and the physical contest between Ba and the two United centre-backs - Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic - was developing into an entertaining one.
Four minutes before the break Van Persie went close, racing on to a Giggs pass and steering it beyond Cech, only for the ball to drop the wrong side of the post for the Dutchman, much to our relief.
Oscar then drove an effort narrowly wide for the Blues as the youngster attempted to open the scoring for the third successive league game before Cech saved well from a Van Persie header.
As the players headed back inside for half-time, there was a frustration we hadn't capitalised on our early dominance.
Both sides emerged for the second half with no changes to personnel, and it was Chelsea who had the first sight of goal, Moses' cross turned behind for a corner as Ba looked to meet it at the near post, and minutes later we were appealing for a penalty.
As the ball was worked out to David Luiz on the right-hand side of the box, the Brazilian evaded the challenge of Giggs only to have his shirt pulled by the Welshman. Howard Webb gave the United man the benefit of the doubt, and while replays appeared to prove there was a fair amount of contact, the incident itself took place just outside the penalty area.
The hosts appeared content to sit deep and hit us on the break, and they came close to profiting from one such passage of play. Jones was released by Anderson, but with time on his side, and an opportunity to take the shot on, he opted to cross, putting far too much weight on his ball which was intended for Van Persie but ran out of play for a goal-kick.
Shortly before the hour United made a double substitution, replacing Anderson and Cleverley with Alexander Buttner and Wayne Rooney, but there remained no sign of any action on the Chelsea bench.
Rooney's first contribution was to surrender possession on the halfway line, allowing Ramires to maraud into a dangerous position. The Brazilian had Ba up in support but, under pressure, he was unable to pick out the run of his team-mate and United cleared.
With 15 minutes left to play Benitez made his first switch of the afternoon, introducing Torres at the expense of Moses, and a minute later we should have been in front. Lampard delivered an exquisite ball in from the edge of the penalty area, but unfortunately for us the man coming on to it was Mata - one of the smallest players on the pitch - and he was unable to find the connection that would surely have given us the lead.
After making his entrance, Torres immediately took up a position wide on the left, and it was following good work out wide by the substitute we were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box after Mata was fouled.
David Luiz was the player entrusted with taking the kick, but having developed a habit of scoring goals of the spectacular variety in recent weeks, he was unable to reproduce a strike of similar note and fired wide.
With four minutes left on the clock, however, and with the game heading for a stalemate, the Blues scored a priceless goal.
Picking the ball up from deep, Ramires drove forward before rolling inside to Oscar, whose first-time ball found Mata; the Chelsea number 10, so often our saviour over the course of the season, controlled it with his first touch and fired his strike into the back of the net via the aid of the post, sending the travelling hordes in the far corner delirious.
The contest had taken a while to heat up, but moments later frustrations boiled over and after kicking out at David Luiz as the pair tussled for possession, Rafael was shown a red card.
It hadn't been a fiery encounter and, in truth, there was barely a bad challenge to speak of, but the United defender had left Webb with little choice and was forced off early.
A couple of late United free-kicks had those of a Chelsea persuasion inside the stadium biting their nails and fearing a late leveller, but fortunately we were able to stand firm and hold on for a memorable win at the aptly named Theatre of Dreams.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Moses (Torres 76), Mata (Ake 90), Oscar; Ba.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Terry, Benayoun.
Scorer Mata 86
Booked David Luiz 85
Manchester United (4-3-3): Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Vidic (c), Evra; Anderson (Rooney 68), Jones, Cleverley (Buttner 68); Valencia (Hernandez 89), Van Persie, Giggs
Unused substitutes: De Gea, Ferdinand, Scholes, Kagawa.
Booked Vidic 52, Jones 81
Sent off Rafael 88
Referee Howard Webb