Saturday, September 20, 2008

United the champs or chumps to face Chelsea this weekend?

The Reds Devils take on Chelsea this weekend, the naysayers would have it that if we lose this game it will turn out to be catastrophic for the Champions. Given United's poor start to the new campaign there are reasons to be concerned.

Going into the 'biggest game of the season" so far, Scolari's team are rightly massive favourites. The Chelsea machine has been moving through the gears nicely, with Deco pulling the strings from midfield and of course they have been boosted by the recent return of the menacing presence of Didier Drogba. The visitors will be without Vidic, so who will mark the Ivorian?

In marked contrast to the challenger's, United have started like a stuttering old banger, the Reds are simply not functioning as a unit. Ferguson's team are playing more like chumps rather than champs at present. Apart from the opening twenty five minutes at Anfield last weekend, the Reds have been poor. Against Villarreal in midweek the Champions of Europe never really looked capable of opening up the Spaniards defence, not until Ronaldo came on that is.

So is there any underlying reasons United's poor form? True, the Reds have only just signed Dimitar Berbatov and he is going to take time to bed in, but hopefully not too long. The form of Wayne Rooney hasn't been good; his performances have been overshadowed by team-mate Carlos Tevez, who has been consistently the Reds best player thus far.

The recent addition of the Bulgarian means that Ferguson will continue to wrestle with how best to get the best from this gifted pool of players. Do not be surprised if at some point in the not too distant future Rooney is either dropped or starts to be withdrawn during games - that scenario was unthinkable not so long ago - it isn't now.

Against Liverpool last weekend Scholes was by-passed by the Liverpool midfield, both he and Giggs are of course another year older. The question is should Fergie still be building his team around Scholes at 34 years of age? Midfield is where games are won and lost.

The team that dominates the centre ground usually ends up winning and the situation hasn't been helped by the constant changes in the engine room, with injuries to Hargreaves, the loss of Carrick and Anderson hasn't so far been able to cement a regular place in the side.

On the flanks, Giggs appears to have been earmarked for a substitute role this season. Nani continues to be very frustrating; his final ball isn't good enough. Park who has only just returned from serious injury continues to run-around like a headless chicken.

At Stamford Bridge on Sunday, there must be a very real danger that United's midfield will once again be over-run, if that happens the back four will not cope. For this reason, I wouldn't be surprised to see United deploying a flexible five-man midfield formation drawn from the following: Ronaldo, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Scholes, Park, Anderson, Tevez and Rooney. I have a feeling that Fletcher will be selected for his running.

If I'm right and Fergie has concerns about midfield, he will probably go with 4-4-1-1. Assuming Berabtov is fit, then the manager has to decide who to leave out. Last weekend Ferguson didn't have Ronaldo to select, now he does and it leaves him with some very difficult decisions because he has to get the balance and personnel right in midfield. Whatever Fergie decides, the Reds will have a strong bench on Sunday.

The only real bright spot for United thus far has been the return of Ronaldo, but Chelsea will know that if they can stop him from playing, they will in all probability have nullified United's attack.

On current form, this match looks like a home banker, but wouldn't it be so sweet to go to London and turnover Chelsea in their own backyard? For that to happen the Champions will have to do something which they haven't done so far this season, that is to put on a complete performance starting at the back with Edwin van der Sar who has been looking decidedly dodgy of late.

While United have always been unpredictable and Stamford Bridge has by and large been a good ground for the Reds down the years, I'm thinking a draw is the best result we can expect based on our current form.

1 comment:

  1. Underlying reasons would be a crappy pre-season with the full line-up not even having an opportunity to play fully as a squad until October.


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