Manchester United and Chelsea will face off on Sunday afternoon, with both teams looking to maintain impressive records. United will be trying to keep what is left of their title hopes alive while also attempting to grow their cushion within the Champions League qualification positions. Meanwhile, the Blues have made much progress in catching up with the top four since the appointment of new manager Thomas Tuchel, and a victory over United would see them move into fourth place, above an overachieving West Ham United.
How Manchester United and Chelsea Could Shape Up in Their Imminent Clash
Manchester United Looking to Preserve Away Record
The Red Devils will travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday looking to keep up their long unbeaten streak away from home. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side have not lost a Premier League game on the road since their 2-0 defeat against bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield in January 2020. The Norwegian manager will want to keep this up as long as possible, giving his side immense confidence when playing away from Old Trafford.
This record, however, could harm United’s willingness to attack. It will, no doubt, be in the back of the players’ minds, and will make them more cautious not to get caught too high up the field and risk conceding a goal. Solskjaer may also make more defensive team selections, although with their injury issues in midfield he may not have a choice.
In more detail, the Red Devils have hit an injury crisis recently. Midfielders Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, and Juan Mata are all stuck on the sidelines. Van de Beek and McTominay could potentially feature at Stamford Bridge, but the other two are firmly ruled out. Edinson Cavani is also out at the moment after his impressive start to life in Manchester, while Daniel James sustained an injury in the Europa League on Thursday night, having regained much of his confidence with an impressive run of form. Phil Jones is also unavailable.
Games against traditional “big six” opposition earlier this season have seen the Red Devils play a cautious game, only scoring one goal in six such matches. Further to this, the only occasion on which United have netted against “big six” opposition this campaign was followed by six goals in the other direction when Tottenham Hotspur demolished the Manchester side 6-1. Some matches, such as their recent 0-0 draw with Arsenal, saw the Red Devils take 14 shots. The issue on this occasion was scoring, but not for a lack of trying. Some of their finishing this season has not been up to scratch, and with Cavani missing for the Chelsea clash, this could once again be an issue.
When looking at Solskjaer’s record against Chelsea boss Tuchel, though, the scorelines have been much more entertaining. The United manager faced Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain side twice in the Champions League knockout stages during the 2018/19 season, as well as drawing them in the group stage of the same competition this campaign. Both managers have won two of these games, with the four meetings accumulating 13 goals. Solskjaer’s side have approached these fixtures with a view to hitting the opposition on the counter-attack, and this has largely paid off, producing entertainment and one of the best nights in recent Manchester United history when they clawed back a two-goal deficit to overcome one of Europe’s strongest teams during Solskjaer’s first season in charge. If meetings between these two managers are anything to go by, then we could be in for a fantastic game.
Chelsea Also on an Impressive Run
Like United, Chelsea are currently on an impressive run of form. The Blues have not yet lost under Thomas Tuchel, accumulating six victories and two draws in all competitions since the German manager took over. And, similar to their opponents from Manchester, Chelsea will be keen to keep this going.
Based on both sides’ willingness to maintain their impressive records, the clash could be a rather dull affair. However, Tuchel’s previous encounters with Solskjaer tell a different story, as previously stated.
When facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tuchel likes to dominate possession of the ball, and the Norwegian manager is happy to allow him to do so, relying on his team’s counter-attacking ability to overcome the former Borussia Dortmund head coach. This type of meeting is capable of producing an end-to-end game, and, if the two managers approach this game as they have done before, we could be highly entertained.