Both Manchester United and Chelsea have had disappointing weeks in the lead up to this game. United were robbed in the Champions League against Real Madrid, with Jose Mourinho conceding the best team lost, whilst Chelsea were outplayed and beaten by some Romanian team in the Europa League.
You would like to think United will respond to their defeat well, with Sir Alex Ferguson using the injustice of the result to rally the team. In contrast, Chelsea seem like a side that are beaten before they play, with dismal performances and depression surrounding the club thanks to the appointment of Rafael Benitez.
Still, Chelsea have enough players in their squad to remember the days when we rivalled each other for success, with the title being passed back and forth between the two clubs between 2005 and 2011. And if they could forget, there’s no doubt our fans will be reminding them of one of the more memorable clashes between the two clubs, when John Terry could have won them the European Cup, but he fucked it up. They have got title winners, FA Cup winners and Champions League winners in that squad, so regardless of what they think about Benitez, they’ve been there and done it, so still have their pride to play for. With the Premier League trophy feeling as though it belongs to us thanks to us winning it almost every season, the FA Cup has started to feel that way for Chelsea over recent years. Whilst United have won it more times than any other club, Chelsea have won it four times in the past six seasons. We would be foolish to underestimate them and not expect them to be desperate for a win today.
The highlight of today, aside from hopefully winning the game, will be getting to take the piss out of Benitez all afternoon. It’s rare for a manager to be disliked equally by both the home and away fans but we might even get a sing-a-long where we all join in together.
After getting his 1000th professional appearance against Real Madrid, Ryan Giggs will be rested today, after working his bollocks off on Tuesday. It was his best performance for United in years and seems to justify his latest one year contract extension. It will be interesting to see who Fergie goes with on the wings in Giggs’ absence. Should he throw Nani straight back in to it after his red card? He seems to be a bit of a fragile boy and you can imagine that Tuesday night will have an impact on him, but surely it’s better to get him straight back in to the thick of it. Kagawa scored a hattrick the last time he played so certainly is deserving of a spot and it would be good to see him given the opportunity for a bit of continuity to build on his form. Ashley Young had a fleeting appearance against Real Madrid and hasn’t had a run in the team for ages thanks to injury, whilst Valencia has looked a shadow of his former self all season, despite looking slightly better recently.
Jonny Evans should come back in to defence and Chris Smalling could replace Rafael at right-back. Phil Jones apparently still isn’t available, but who knows whether the manager regards him as a defender or midfielder. We should see Carrick starting, like always, but Anderson might be used to partner him.
Up front, it’s hard to look past Rooney and Chicharito. Our Mexican has scored six goals in the nine games he’s played against Chelsea since signing for United and has been left out of most of our games recently. Ferguson didn’t play Rooney on Tuesday for sound footballing reasons but it should be the same reasons that bring him back in to the team today. Robin van Persie has looked pretty shattered for a few weeks now and Welbeck’s exploits midweek will probably have taken it out of him.
If Chelsea get an early goal today then it could raise their spirits, but hopefully it is us that gets an early goal or two and go on to batter them. They’re there for the taking today and our lads need to get the job done.
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