Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageTactical Preview: Manchester United - Chelsea

By Tyrrell Meertins     Dec 27, 2015 in Sports
Chelsea’s trip to Manchester United may not correlate with the current title race, but this fixture presents an interesting plot twist.
The Blues are currently enduring the worst title defence to memory, whilst sacking manager Jose Mourinho, whereas United are currently on their worst run of form in recent years, failing to win a match in all competitions in over a month. Most interestingly, Louis van Gaal’s job is in jeopardy with Mourinho favourite to take over at Old Trafford.
Nevertheless, this is a battle between the two most recent Holland managers – Van Gaal guided Holland to a third place finish at the World Cup with pragmatic, counter attacking football, while Guus Hiddink failed to guide practically the same individuals to an expanded Euro 2016 tournament. Here, however, the situations are contrasting, as a Manchester United loss could result in Van Gaal’s sacking.
Since Mourinho’s departure, Chelsea defeated relegation battlers Sunderland, and a recorded a positive home draw with Watford on Hiddink’s debut. Chelsea has yet to showcase substantial changes under Hiddink, but the improved atmosphere and enthusiasm from the players signifies progress.
Unfortunately for Hiddink, Diego Costa’s booking against Watford rules the Spanish international unavailable, and should see Loic Remy start ahead of Radamel Falcao. Though Falcao would be eager to score against his former employers, Remy’s pace on the counter could prove decisive.
“He [Costa] is out for United, with a fifth [booking], which means we have to think how to solve that problem," Hiddink said.
"It's a pity because he'd put in a good performance. So we need to solve that problem in the next 48 hours."
Eden Hazard is also a doubt for the trip to Old Trafford, but Chelsea have enough cover in wide areas with the industrious Willian and Pedro fit to start. Both men work tirelessly to protect their full-backs, but are equally devastating counter-attacking players.
Cesc Fabregas was hauled off at half-time on Boxing Day, whereas Oscar struggled as well, missing a vital penalty that would have won Chelsea the match. Hiddink stated he was seeking balance when asked about Fabregas’ half-time substitution, and this could see John Obi Mikel, Ramires, or both men, joining Nemanja Matic in midfield – the possibility of a 4-3-3 isn’t unlikely.
Van Gaal is expected to make several changes to the side that lost to Stoke, starting with recalling captain Wayne Rooney to the XI following a poor showing at the Britannia Stadium.
"You can say we can quickly get over this defeat by playing against Chelsea but, in the time in between, you have to recover because the players have given everything," Van Gaal told MUTV.
"Then you have to manage that you are very confident to start the Chelsea game, and that you dare to play football -- our football! It is very difficult to do that in just two days but we shall try."
Rooney’s enduring his worst form of his career, but his inclusion could see Anthony Martial pushed to the flanks against the beleaguered Branislav Ivanovic. With that being said, out-of-form Memphis Depay could also pose a threat to the sluggish Serbian, with Mata and Fellaini battling for the final spot in an attacking trio.
Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick struggled at Stoke, and though the former’s dynamism may earn the Spaniard a second consecutive start, Van Gaal is expected to rotate. Bastian Schweinsteiger returns from a three-match suspension – though Oscar’s pressing could fluster the German – whereas Morgan Schneiderlin should also return to the XI.
Schneiderlin’s exclusion has been peculiar considering United’s successful record with the Frenchman in the lineup, but his positive displays last season against the Chelsea midfield should encourage Van Gaal to make the midfield adjustments. There’s also the possibility of Herrera starting in the no.10 role ahead of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin to ensure United control the midfield.
In terms of defence, there shouldn’t be many changes from either side. Mateo Darmian is aiming to be fit at right-back, while Van Gaal may opt for Ashley Young’s pace against Chelsea’s speedy wingers instead of Blind’s passing.
Hiddink may also want to summon a mobile Kurt Zouma to cope with Martial or Depay’s pace in attack. Zouma’s partnership with Cahill has been ineffective this season, so the Frenchman should start alongside John Terry, if the Chelsea captain can cope with a one-day break. United’s attack rarely aims to run beyond the opposition’s defence, but here, Zouma’s inclusion would still be expedient.
The Blues remain undefeated against Manchester United in the Louis van Gaal era, and their approach shouldn’t differ under Hiddink. United will dominate possession with Chelsea aiming to break with numbers on the counter, but considering the limited recovery period, this could be a cautious encounter between two sides that are desperate to avoid defeat.
Chelsea’s threat in transition appears the likely source of a goal, but United must find penetration and get runners beyond the Blues defence if they intend on getting a result. The other option would see Van Gaal revert to reactive man-marking to prevent Chelsea from exposing the United back-line on the counterattack.
At this point, Van Gaal simply needs a win, and the latter may be a plausible approach.
More about Manchester United, Chelsea, Rooney, Hazard, Diego Costa
Sports Video
Latest News
Top News