The fifth game in the ‘dreaded’ fixture line up for United beckons, and it just as well might be the biggest one yet. So far, the Red Devils have handled the challenge in imperious style, bagging all 12 points while brushing aside their opponents almost effortlessly. What’s more impressive is the fact that in each of those games, United have scored two or more goals, a testimony of the much improved attacking football being witnessed under Louis Van Gaal. Sure, the players scoring the goals might be enjoying their recent improvement under LVG, but make no mistake; truly the man to thank here is David Moyes. After all, he’s the one who brought Fellaini and Mata to Old Trafford. The man is a genius!
Onto much more serious matters now. Chelsea. The boys at the Bridge are already champions elect and with a seven point gap with six games left to go, I must admit it is near impossible to dislodge them from their perch. Chelsea have played purposeful football from the very get go, and even though they’re not as ruthless as they were in the first half of the season, they’re still getting the results they need- you know, the kind of results that win you titles… (I hope the guy in charge of the Kop is reading this). Full marks to you, Mr.Mourinho.
The trip to Stamford bridge will be an awkward one for the reds becaise of two main reasons:
1) Their ghastly record at the Bridge.
2) Mr. Mindgame Mourinho
I find the former reason to be more shocking than the latter. United’s record at Stamford bridge is abysmal. I don’t know why I find it so bizzare that United have won only ONCE in twelve meetings at the Bridge. Further more, the boys from Manchester have suffered more premier league defeats against Chelsea than any other side (15). Of course, part of this is as a result of some poor refereeing decisions (mostly against United) but overall, we just never seem to turn up when we head to London.
The other reason is a no brainer. We’ve always known Mourinho as a world class manager. Everywhere he goes, he wins titles, or leaves an impression. Whether its at Porto or Madrid, Mourinho always somehow manages to work magic and come up with something special. There’s no doubt that he’s right up there with the greats as a master tactician. But there’s more to Mourinho’s game than just footballing genius. In fact, I’d like to think that Mourinho’s brain is split into two parts; one half creates, stores and replicates masterplans that win him titles, and the other half specializes in wit and mind games that are used to manipulate and influence his opponents, making his title pursuit easier in the process. This is always apparent when you listen to his pre and post-match conferences. Sometimes he’s a bit fiery. Sometimes a bit flat. Make no mistake though, this man ALWAYS knows what he’s saying, even if he ends up sounds like a complete douchebag in the process.
Gary Neville’s analysis as to how Chelsea will line up to try to halt United was quite accurate. The Special One is detail oriented, and even though we’ve had much fun on that left flank, I doubt that Chelsea will allow United that much space to work around. Blind, Fellaini and Young have been working in unison on that left side as witnessed in the Manchester derby and 3 of the 4 goals scored then were as a result of that industry. Mourinho has definitely been observing this and I feel he will most likely deploy the tactic that has won him many fans and haters alike:
Park the bus..eer, I mean Train. A tactic so distinct with Chelsea that EA picked it up on their latest installation of FIFA.
You see, the Boys in Blue are currently in a vague situation. Their log position, point difference and games left leaves them in a slightly “comfortable but not so comfortable” position. This particular fixture is one that they don’t particularly need to win: they just need to avoid defeat. Of course, Mourinho would LOVE to extend his lead to an astounding 10 points, putting the title beyond doubt than it already is. This would be his ideal outcome. However, another scenario also lingers not so far away. It must also be in Mourinho’s mind that Chelsea haven’t played exactly good football of late, with their recent matches against QPR and Stoke proving this. In fact, I thought their performance against the Rangers was their worst this season; more than than their Tottenham and Newcastle defeats. Credit to them, however, for getting the results. With this in mind, should Chelsea lose their next two fixtures, against United and Arsenal, then the plot completely changes. It would cast a doubt upon London’s Blue skies and all of a sudden, what seemed comprehensively sealed becomes completely blown opened . Yes, my friends. Football is unpredictable, and anything (
upsets) can happen, no matter how slim the chances seem..
As I said before, Mourinho would absolutely cherish 3 points, but is he going to go for them? Of course not. At this particular juncture, He’d be content with a point, just as he was when the two teams last met at Old Trafford. So much so, that on Saturday, I reckon he’ll bring out his renowned bus…wait, No. This time round, he’s bringing a train. Why? to deal with a live wire known as Fellaini. The 6″4 midfielder has caused havoc in advanced positions this season, and because of this, ladies and gentlelads, be prepared for what I think will be a bland, conservative game. Mourinho loathes being done for in big matches, and justbecause of that he’ll resort to playing ‘19th century football‘.
This will be a heavily tactical game. I suspect Mourinho will deploy two robust holding midfielders who go by the names of Nemanja Matic and not surprisingly, Kurt Zouma. The 20 year old French center back has played in that position to good effect, most notably against Tottenham in the Capital One final. The midfield will be compressed in order to squeeze out any space for United who look to dominate possession in that part of the pitch. Heck, Mourinho is so good such that he doesn’t even mind his team not having much of the ball. They are well drilled when they play defensively and when they break on the counter, the results have been disastrous.
It will be a case of master meeting student again in this encounter, this time around the student having the slighter edge over the teacher. This will count for nothing this time round, as Van Gaal is not just another manager. His team is in fine form and if Terry and his boys are not alert, United could nick all 3 points. LVG is somehow is resistant to Mourinho’s games, as well as bad media. He seems a man focused on achieving what he set out for: Champions League football. At the rate in which he’s moving, he won’t mind reinforcing his current position with a win against the Blues, and his team will be eagerly awaiting to pounce on any error Courtois and company make at the back. A win for United could mean that they leapfrog the Gunners for second spot, as Wengers’ men have to wait until Wednesday to do anything about it. As it stands, however, this game is poised for a standoff. Because of Mourinho and his teams position, it has all the makings of a draw with my prediction being a 2-2 draw. Nevertheless, this is the Premier League, and it never lacks its fair share of drama.
Remember, anything is possible here. Anything.
See you on the pitch!