On 17th February 2020, Manchester United return to league action in a highly anticipated match-up against their London top 4 rivals, Chelsea. Currently, United sit 6 points behind Chelsea who occupy 4th place in the table. Usually, this would be the final Champions League spot, but in the wake of Manchester City’s competition ban, if the ban goes ahead, one would assume 5th place is enough for entry to Europe’s premier competition (a spot currently held by Tottenham Hotspur 5 points ahead of United, managed by former United coach Jose Mourinho). Either way, Monday’s game is an important one. Win, and United are within 3 points of the top 4. Lose, and they fall 9 points adrift of the side that call Stamford Bridge home.
Chelsea are expected to lineup in a 4-3-3 against the Red Devils, as they have in their recent games and in their previous match against United, the 2-1 win for the Manchester side in the Carabao Cup. The opposition are expected to lineup something like this:
With Chelsea likely try and play on the front foot at their own stomping ground, United would be wise to try and counter this. They could try playing in a 3-5-2(3-4-1-2) formation, similar to the one they used against Chelsea in the aforementioned cup tie they triumphed in. The 3-5-2(3-4-1-2) formation allows the team to be able to soak up pressure with the extra defender, but then on the counter, affords two high wide players in the wing backs, 3 midfielders who can help create and supply with one playing slightly ahead in the 10 role, and you have your 2 strikers even if one plays slightly deeper off of his counterpart. A starting XI for this formation could look something like: de Gea; Wan-Bissaka/Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof; Williams, Fred, Matic, Dalot; Fernandes; Martial, Greenwood/James. To play Greenwood would allow the team more link up play if they decide to play slightly more possession based, alternatively James could be utilised on the counter due to the raw pace that he offers. Then in the ‘5’, you would have the attacking impetus of Dalot on the right flank, and on the left side the effort levels of young Williams. In the centre of the park, Fernandes would provide you with the creativity and maintain the link to the attackers so they don’t become isolated, with Fred and Matic either side and slightly deeper to maintain and win possession among other tasks.
However, with Solskjaer’s tendency to play the 4-2-3-1 in the league, there is every chance that is the formation we see on the night. It would likely look something like this:
In this formation, there is the potential with the extra attacker to inflict damage on the counter. They would have to be careful with the wingers tracking back to support the full backs otherwise they could become isolated on either flank. Also, this formation hinges on the central of the attacking three (in this case Bruno Fernandes) playing well. He will have to make sure he drops into the midfield to prevent them being overrun by the Chelsea midfield 3; he will also have to make sure that on the ball he gets up the field to support the other attackers and maintain the link from midfield to prevent the attackers, particularly the striker Martial, from becoming segregated from the rest of the team. Chelsea do have a slight preference of attacking down their left side (40% of their attacks from this side), so Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have to be his usual alert self.
|Type of Goal||Total Goals Scored|
As seen in the above table, 75% of Chelsea’s goals this season at home have come from open play and only 1 set piece goal, which suits United due to their worrying struggles this season defending from set pieces.
In conclusion, Mondays nights game has all the ingredients to be an exciting affair, especially considering the previous two encounters between the sides has seen 7 goals scored! If Manchester United want to win, they will have to be disciplined, the fullbacks and no 10 will need to be on top of their games too. Or Chelsea have an off night, doesn’t bother us as long as United win!
Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Man United