This is the real crunch tie for both Man United and Chelsea, United badly need three points to keep up their momentum for a Top 4 spot, while the visitors will feel a win can seal the Premier League crown.
Antonio Conte will know that this is his biggest challenge to date. The players will have had this game earmarked for a while and even if Spurs win on Saturday morning, a victory at Old Trafford would put Chelsea seven points clear with four easy home games to go. That’s surely out of sight.
This contest against United really is the defining moment for Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho will want to avenge his two losses to his former club this season. The Red Devils have to get into the Champions League by hook or by crook because if they don’t they won’t be able to attract the very best players next season.
They need more quality because Manchester United have been far too over-reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimović this campaign.
Ibra’s carrying the load for The Reds
Zlatan has been utterly outstanding, if you look at the goals he’s scored and took those away from United it would be interesting to see how far off the top sides they’d be. I’m sure he loves all the pressure of being the main man at United – that’s why Ibrahimović is such a great player – but it’s not good that the club are so dependent on him.
You look at the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford – even though he’s young – they’re all attacking players, but they’re not contributing their quota of goals. Sometimes you watch them play and think to yourself ‘if Zlatan doesn’t score, who will?’
The rest of these guys have to step up and help the Swede, they shouldn’t have to rely on a 35-year-old to win games for them – even if he is as great as Zlatan. People go on about the likes of Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté, but when you take Ibrahimović’s age into account it’s nothing short of phenomenal what he’s done since arriving on a free transfer – he could even win PFA Player of the Year.
Chelsea on the other hand, just seem to have the perfect balance to their outfit. They’re defensive solid, they’re creative, The Blues have got power throughout the side and in the top third of the pitch they’ve one of the best players in Hazard – as well as Diego Costa scoring for fun.
There’s really no chinks in their armour and when you look at the rest of Chelsea’s challengers, they’re all missing something.
Misbehaving under Mourinho
Mourinho’s been publically slating Luke Shaw of late, but as a manager I always felt you had to keep player issues in-house. Personally, I don’t think you should air your dirty laundry in public.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it won’t. Maybe it’s motivation for Shaw or it could just be a simple kick up the backside. I can’t speculate as to why Jose decided to do it in public eye, but with a managerial record like his, who’s going to argue with his methods.
That’s Jose’s way of working. He gets criticism from time-to-time, but if it gets best out of Shaw and then he has done his job. Shaw’s needs to prove himself to not only Mourinho, but to everyone watching as well.
It’s a tight one to call on Sunday, if United can shackle Hazard they’ve got more than a chance of winning. However, Chelsea will be fresh without any midweek football, so the home side will need to be wary.
It will be interesting to see how United deal with Conte’s three-at-the-back system with the wing backs bombing on. The stakes are high, but I’m going with a 2-1 win for Man United…