Mon 26 Aug 2013 20:00 (Attendance: 75,032)
Chelsea hit the road for the first time this season, and providing some signposts towards Monday evening's fixture are club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton…
Former full-back Gary Neville, now an insightful Sky Sports analyst, recently warned David Moyes and the current team not to make the mistakes his Man United did in 2004 and 2005, allowing Chelsea to build an early lead in the title race.
'We left ourselves too much to do,' Neville recalled, 'and when we got into our stride the problem was we were too far behind to mount a challenge.' The Blues' 100 per cent start has already opened up a gap at the top, and a win in Manchester would place the Londoners six clear of one of our rivals after a handful of games.
Any psychological advantage created by the extra game and points cushion, though, would be quashed should Man United prevail on Monday evening. Chelsea-Villa had originally been scheduled for next weekend but instead the Blues face Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup in Prague on Friday.
As a result all the other Premier League sides will have caught up on matches in a week's time - and United are obviously not the only title contenders.
Historically Chelsea have a fine record at Old Trafford, sometimes making a mockery of the form books to earn a win: beating the European Champions in 1968, for instance, in 1977 through Bill Garner, or with Gavin Peacock's humbling of the Double winners in 1994 (pictured below). Lest we forget, we made our FA Cup final bow there in 1915 and Leeds were overcome in a replay 55 years later.
In the Premier League era Chelsea have earned six wins from 21 visits to the 'Theatre of Dreams' and drawn seven times - it has been Man United's most troublesome home fixture of the season.
The record points total that Sir Alex Ferguson used as a motivational target for his side last season was established by Jose Mourinho's side in the 3-1 comeback victory at United's home in May 2005. The Blues were also undefeated in four of our five meetings in all competitions during 2012/13.
Of course it has been all change at Old Trafford since the summer. Ferguson was a colossus in football and his departure will be felt like a small nation losing a lifelong leader, his lieutenants and diplomatic links all at the same time.
It will seem strange not to see the agile old gent shoving his kit man out of the way en route pitchside to castigate a referee. That is one of the last workplace images Mourinho will retain of his friend and adversary, from when Real Madrid won at Old Trafford last March.
That is if the Portuguese witnessed it: while United's grandee was venting spleen at officials about Nani's red card Mourinho was calmly scheming, warming up Luka Modric and reorganising his men to take instant advantage of the 10-man hosts. Within minutes Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo had overturned the 0-1 deficit and Real were in the quarter-finals.
Even the kit man, Albert Morgan, has departed now. New broom David Moyes once compared jousting with Mourinho's substitutions to playing chess with someone thinking several moves ahead: he failed to put the Portuguese in a tactical checkmate in any of their 10 tight encounters.
A fine example was in November 2004 when Moyes's Toffees were beaten 1-0 at the Bridge to send Chelsea top of the table for the first time. The Blues piled on the pressure with Duff and Robben raiding down the flanks, but Everton stood resolute.
From around the hour mark Mourinho made a series of changes - Kezman for Tiago, Geremi for Gudjohnsen and Huth for Duff - that were as far from like-for-like as possible and bore false witness to the manager's real intentions. Robben, who had switched wings, scored the only goal of the game after a lob from Gudjohnsen, who had been asked to drop deep. It was a masterclass that even Moyes must have appreciated.
The eyes and lenses of the media will also be on Wayne Rooney at this match. The Liverpudlian has faced Chelsea more than any other opposition over his career and scored nine goals against the Blues, although the first took five-and-a-half years to arrive.
In February last year he hit two in a 3-3 draw, though that was as a striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Since then he has been used more as a wide or central midfielder than a forward.
The Champions League group stage draw will take place on Thursday 29 August at 4.45pm with Chelsea in Pot 1, ranked third in the 2013 seeding below Bayern Munich and Barcelona. United are rated fifth in Europe behind Real Madrid. In Thursday's draw no club can be grouped with another from the same Pot or country, so Chelsea cannot be drawn with Pot 3's Man City, for instance.
Pot 1: Bayern, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal*, Porto, Benfica.
Pot 2: Atletico Madrid, Olympique Lyons*, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan*, Schalke, Olympique Marseille, CSKA Moscow, Paris Saint-Germain.
Pot 3: Juventus, Zenit St. Petersburg*, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel*, Olympiacos, Galatasaray.
Pot 4: Bayer Leverkusen, FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic*, Steaua Bucharest*, Viktoria Plzen*, Dinamo Zagreb*.
* Pending qualification from play-off round.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Fulham v Arsenal 12.45pm - BT Sport
Everton v West Brom 3pm
Hull v Norwich 3pm
Newcastle v West Ham 3pm
Southampton v Sunderland 3pm
Stoke v Crystal Palace 3pm
Aston Villa v Liverpool 5.30pm - Sky Sports
Cardiff v Manchester City 4pm - Sky Sports
Tottenham v Swansea 4pm
Chelsea, unbeaten on the road in the league in four games, started the first two home matches with a pace and intensity that was often lacking in the last few seasons. (One noteworthy exception was the last home game of 2012/13 against David Moyes's Everton.)
This first away game, against top opposition, will be a huge test of the Blues' highly-praised forwards' efficiency against a side that attacks more than visitors to the Bridge have.
It will also be interesting to see how the champions' ageing defence, which conceded four more goals in the league than Chelsea last season, deals with the fluid movement of the early season leaders.
The 4-4-1-1 of the Ferguson years has morphed into a 4-2-3-1 under the new man but it was familiar to the players and used in Champions League games. Chelsea have been lining up the same way, with lots of switching of position among the front four.
As Manchester United have only played one genuinely competitive match it is difficult to assess whether Moyes will devise game plans according to opponents as he did at Everton - with superior resources at his disposal Ferguson rarely felt the need for special measures.
There do seem to be tweaks taking place however. For decades the Red Devils have deployed wingers who charge towards the by-line and cross or cut back to expose opponents. Against Swansea their direction was generally towards the centre, as Steven Pienaar would do under Moyes at Goodison.
For what it is worth, last season at Swansea, in a 1-1 draw, United attempted 27 crosses - two-and-a-half times more than during Saturday's 4-1 win over the same opponents. They also attempted 100 - or 20 per cent - fewer passes than their previous visit.
When they lose the ball United quickly convert to defensive banks and defend from the front - even Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck. However this is a Red Devils side with arguably less creativity than many of the past.
Shinji Kagawa offers cleverness in the role behind a striker but less fight than his teammates. The Japanese was relied upon by the previous manager against title rivals because he could unlock a tight game and that will no doubt be the advice he has passed on to his chosen successor.
Ferguson's last buy, rookie Wilfried Zaha, will have to produce more than stepovers and flicks if he is to affect matches such as this, but he seems capable of unpredictable bursts of skill of which the Blues should be wary.
It is Welbeck's positional discipline, on the other hand, that warrants inclusion. His hard work exemplifies what already looks a more tenacious, direct, Toffee-flavoured United.
Tactics such as the long ball forward from David De Gea to Danny Welbeck bypass the central midfield, which remains United's weakest area on the park. Chelsea will not afford Michael Carrick (pictured below) and Tom Cleverley the luxurious space Swansea did, or Wigan in the Community Shield.
The hosts have a back four boasting vast experience but no longer blessed with great mobility, and they defend deep. Mourinho will want his team's sharp passing and pacier players to expose them. He will be wary of his defence's occasional lapse in allowing strikers room to shoot - against Van Persie that could be fatal.
Juan Mata was not quite back to full sharpness in the win over Aston Villa but it was his cleverness and redirected shot that earned all three points at Old Trafford last season. David Luiz is still working his way back to fitness and is perhaps more likely to feature against Bayern in the UEFA Super Cup on Friday.
Although United are only one our rivals for honours this season Mourinho will want to lay down a marker in this regenerated rivalry. He may see this as another game for his younger players to learn from rather than start.
As a result we may see Fernando Torres starting ahead of his fellow strikers, with the impressive Romelu Lukaku an impact sub from the bench - the Belgian hit a brilliant hat-trick for West Brom against the Mancunians at the end of last season.
Defender Rafael (hamstring) and attackers Nani (groin), Ashley Young (ankle) and Javier Hernandez (hamstring) are on the Man United injury list.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Almost 45 years ago to the day, on Saturday 24 August 1968, Dave Sexton took his burgeoning Chelsea side to Old Trafford to face the might of Alec Stepney, Paddy Crerand, Bobby Charlton, George Best et al, fresh from their European Cup triumph.
Knighted after masterminding the Wembley triumph, Sir Matt Busby had predicted the west Londoners would present the greatest threat to his club's title aspirations and 54,870 probably left the stadium in agreement with him.
It was Manchester United's third home game of the season and while their away form was indifferent, Everton and Coventry City had been beaten by the odd goal before the arrival of the Blues.
Inconsistent Chelsea had won one, drawn one and lost one of their opening three, offering little suggestion they might inflict on United their biggest home defeat for six years.
George Best, manacled by skipper Ron Harris, was the most subdued among his side, effectively marked man-for-man in key areas. The Blues were hungrier, faster, more effective.
The Red Devils' suspect back line succumbed inside the first minute, Tommy Baldwin swivelling in the box and turning the ball past Stepney. Tony Dunne sliced a clearance straight to Bobby Tambling 12 minutes later, and the club's second all-time goalscorer made no mistake to make it 2-0. Tambling turned provider before half-time, sneaking a cross through Crerand's legs for Baldwin to back-heel into the net.
Midway through the second half another Dunne error presented the ball to Alan Birchenall (pictured below), who gratefully snapped up his second of the campaign. Man United had bought winger Willie Morgan from Burnley that morning. Inevitably the call went up that Busby had invested in the wrong area of the pitch.
Back to the modern era and Chelsea were unbeaten at Old Trafford last season in both our meetings in league and FA Cup. United have won three and Chelsea two of the last six at the Theatre of Dreams.
Our last 10 Premier League games against Man Utd at Old Trafford
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
2012/13 - Chelsea won 1-0
Other fixtures last 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 Hernandez 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 168
Chelsea wins 47
Man United wins 72
Head to head in the League at Manchester United
Games played 71
Chelsea wins 19
Man 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: 113
Man Utd drew a league game at home: 491
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,019
Liverpool won the league: 8,514
Chelsea are unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League in 10 games winning 26 points from the last 30.
We have won three and drawn one of our last four away top-flight league games.
|Last six results|
|Aug 1||Inter Milan (Indianapolis)||W 2-0|
|Aug 4||AC Milan (New Jersey)||W 2-0|
|Aug 7||Real Madrid (Miami)||L 1-3|
|Aug 10||Roma (Washington DC)||W 2-1|
|Aug 18||Hull City (h)||W 2-0|
|Aug 21||Aston Villa (h)||W 2-1|
Premier League scorers (4)
Ivanovic 1, Lampard 1, Oscar 1, own goal 1
League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 2
An away defeat: 4
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Fri 30 Aug||Bayern Munich (UEFA Super Cup) Prague||7.45pm|
|Sat 14 Sep||Everton away||5.30pm|
|17/18 Sep||Champions League matchday one||TBC|
To meet the criteria for a clean sheet, a player has to play at least part of a game in which the club has not conceded a goal throughout. For example, after our 1-0 win at Reading in October 2006 Petr Cech, Carlo Cudicini and John Terry all qualified for one.
Congratulations to Cesar Azpilicueta who celebrates his 24th birthday on Wednesday (28 August).
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
20 FA Charity/Community Shields (incl 4 shared), last in 2013
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
Premier League - Champions
Champions League - Last 16
FA Cup - quarter-final (eliminated by Chelsea)
Capital One Cup fourth round (eliminated by Chelsea)
It is 16 months since Man Utd drew a league game at Old Trafford - the 4-4 draw to Everton in April 2012.
They haven't played out a goalless draw for 82 Premier League matches.
Man United have won 51 of their last 59 home Premier League matches, drawing three and losing five, two of which were to Chelsea.
Robin van Persie scored 30 per cent of United's league goals last term.
Man United gained 29 points from losing positions last season, the best record in the Premier League and the best in the top flight since Newcastle in 2001/02 (34).
Last season's Premier League stats
Most starts: Robin van Persie 35, Michael Carrick 34, Patrice Evra 34
Most goals: Robin van Persie 26, Wayne Rooney 12, Javier Hernandez 10
Manager David Moyes
Days in charge: 99
|Red Devils' last 10 year league history|
|Last six results|
|Jul 26||Cerezo Osaka (a)||D 2-2|
|Jul 29||Kitchee (a)||W 5-2|
|Aug 6||AIK (a)||D 1-1|
|Aug 9||Sevilla (h)||L 1-3|
|Aug 11||Wigan (Community Shield, Wembley)||W 2-0|
|Aug 17||Swansea (a)||W 4-1|
Premier League scorers (4)
Van Persie 2, Welbeck 2
OPENING DAY PREMIER LEAGUE LINE UP
Swansea City 1 - 4 Manchester United
Saturday 17 August 2013, Attendance: 20,733
Manchester United (4-4-1-1):De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic (c), Evra; Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Giggs; Welbeck; Van Persie.
Substitutes Rooney for Giggs (61), Anderson for Van Persie (86)
Scorers Van Persie (34, 72), Welbeck (36, 90+2)
Booked Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley
League games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 20
A home defeat: 1
Ins Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen, undisclosed), Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem, undisclosed), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, free), Cristian Cuevas (O'Higgins, undisclosed), Stipe Perica (NK Zadar, undisclosed)
Outs Amin Affane (released, now Energie Cottbus), Yossi Benayoun (released), Aziz Deen-Conteh (released), Paulo Ferreira (released), Florent Malouda (released, now Trabzonspor), Archange Nkumu (released), Ross Turnbull (released, now Doncaster), Jeffrey Bruma (PSV, undisclosed), George Saville (Brentford, loan), Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid, loan), Todd Kane (Blackburn, loan), Marko Marin (Sevilla, loan), Patrick Bamford (MK Dons, loan), Billy Clifford (Yeovil, loan), Oriol Romeu (Valencia, loan), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall, loan), Danny Pappoe (Colchester, loan), Sam Walker (Colchester, loan), Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Gael Kakuta (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem, loan), Matej Delac (FK Vojvodina, loan), Jhon Pirez (Leganes, loan), Lucas Piazon (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Wallace (Inter Milan, loan), Cristian Cuevas (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Stipe Perica (NAC Breda, loan).
Ins Guillermo Varela (Atletico Penarol, £2.4m).
Outs Reece Brown (Watford, free), John Cofie (Barnsley, free), Michele Fornasier (Sampdoria, free), Luke Giverin (released), Luke Hendrie (released), Reece James (Carlisle, loan), Luke McCullough (Doncaster, free), Sean McGinty (Sheffield Utd, free), Paul Scholes (retired), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Ipswich, loan), Sam Johnstone (Yeovil, loan), Gyliano van Velzen (Utrecht, free), Frederic Veseli (Ipswich, free), Scott Wootton (Leeds, undisclosed)
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Martin Atkinson was the official in three league games last term, all London derbies - Arsenal home and away and West Ham at Upton Park - plus our FA Cup victory at Middlesbrough. In 2011 Sir Alex Ferguson was handed the longest touchline ban ever by the FA after his criticism of Atkinson's handling of our 2-1 win at the Bridge.
There are no suspensions.
A match of few chances saw Chelsea depart the north-west with a creditable point on Monday night, as we continued our unbeaten start to the league season.
It was an absorbing rather than exciting game, and the point will probably please Jose Mourinho more than his counterpart David Moyes, who was taking charge of his first home game as United manager, and over the 90 minutes it was the Manchester side that created more goalscoring opportunities, though it should be said that Petr Cech, in chalking up his 200th Chelsea clean sheet, did not have to work particularly hard.
Robin Van Persie went close in the first half with a vicious drive the goalkeeper was able to watch wide, and the Dutchman then headed over, while for Chelsea Oscar twice shot straight at the goalkeeper.
After the break Wayne Rooney forced Cech into one low save, but Chelsea defended resolutely, and credit should go in particular to the outstanding John Terry and Gary Cahill in ensuring United were to end the game frustrated.
Mourinho caused a few shockwaves with his selection, naming a line-up without one of his recognised centre-forwards. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle were his front four, and it was the summer signing from Germany, making his first competitive start, that would fill the striker's role, which some expected to be left void like the Spanish national side had done to good effect previously.
United made one change, bringing in Chelsea target Rooney in place of veteran Ryan Giggs, with the England man slotting in behind first-choice forward Van Persie in a 4-2-3-1 formation mirroring our own.
Manchester United against Chelsea has become one of the Premier League's biggest clashes, and this particular meeting had more subplots than the usual.
It was slightly surprising then that it was intriguing rather than explosive, with Oscar's drive straight at United's David De Gea all either side had to show for goalscoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, though John Terry needed to be alert to cut out a Rooney cross intended for Van Persie shortly afterwards.
Van Persie was the league's top scorer last season, and he came close after 23 minutes when he stole possession on the edge of the Chelsea box, unleashing a fearsome drive that hit the side-netting. Then he headed a Patrice Evra cross just over before Rooney shot tamely at Cech.
Chelsea, and Oscar and Hazard in particular, had been scheming and playing some tidy football, but were lacking punch in the final third. Schurrle was seeing little of the action.
Seven minutes before the break United threatened again, a long build-up eventually seeing Terry half clear a low cross to the edge of the area, from where Tom Cleverley fired over Cech's bar.
The half ended as it began, Oscar picking the ball up on the edge of the United box, and sending a shot straight towards De Gea, which the goalkeeper dealt with easily.
Neither side made changes at the break, and it was once more United who looked the likelier to score after the restart, their best chance falling to Danny Welbeck after 55 minutes after Evra had dispossessed De Bruyne and fed Rooney, who slipped a short pass to his England team-mate. Welbeck bent his shot well over under pressure from the excellent Terry, who then broke up a United counter with Chelsea looking vulnerable.
Cahill, from distance, brought a diving save from De Gea but still most of Chelsea's work was on the back foot. Frank Lampard blocked a Cleverley half-volley inside the box, prompting penalty appeals around Old Trafford, but referee Martin Atkinson was well placed to wave play on.
In the technical area, Mourinho had acted first, bringing on Torres for De Bruyne and moving Schurrle to the right, while David Moyes soon followed as he introduced Ashley Young in place of Antonio Valencia.
Terry was on hand to head away again, before Rooney brought a stretching save from Cech as time began to run down.
Both sides had wanted to win, but by this point it seemed neither wanted to lose, and Mourinho attempted to shut up shop with the introduction of John Mikel Obi three minutes from time.
United would have a huge opportunity immediately after the Nigerian came on though, and it was Mikel who blocked Van Persie's volley, the ball rebounding to Evra who volleyed well wide.
That would be the final chance of the game, with just three added minutes signalled by Atkinson. It means we leave Old Trafford top of the league, albeit having played three games to most teams' two.
It is now on to Prague and the UEFA Super Cup tie with Bayern Munich. That encounter is on Friday night, and will be every bit as well discussed as this one.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic (c), Evra; Cleverley, Carrick; Valencia (Young 66), Rooney, Welbeck (Giggs 78); Van Persie.
Unused substitutes: Lindegaard, Smalling, Buttner, Anderson, Kagawa.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Lampard; De Bruyne (Torres 59), Oscar, Hazard (Azpilicueta 90+3); Schurrle (Mikel 87).
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Essien, Mata, Lukaku.
Booked De Bruyne 32, Torres 80
Referee Martin Atkinson