Both sets of fans have been going on and on about why their team will win on Sunday – and after having watched both teams since the start of the season, I’ve picked out a number of reasons why Manchester United is going to win (simply because they are SO MUCH BETTER on certain areas of the pitch than Chelsea).
1. Flair players
Ronaldo is in the form of his life, and as he showed in the World Cup, he raises his game for the big occasions, and in the Premiership it doesn’t get any bigger than Manchester United vs Chelsea. He’s learned to stay on his feet more and his overall game (freekicks, passing, dribbling) has improved.
He’ll be up against Ashley Cole and John Terry and both Chelsea players would love to kick him, but there’s also Boulahrouz and Ferreira, and with Ronaldo’s penchance for roving about the Chelsea defence will be in for a tough time.
Manchester United also have Giggs, Saha, Rooney and Scholes in a magnificent front-five attacking quintet – in comparison, Chelsea will have Sheva, Drogba, Lampard and Cole – Of these, only Drogba and Cole are worth worrying about and even then, The front four don’t have the same attacking verve as United do.
2. Manchester United’s wing-play
In contrast to Manchester United, Chelsea play in a cramped area of the pitch, and whenever they do float out to the wings, they tend to defend rather than attack (as they did against Barcelona). The natural width is there with Robben and Joe Cole but Mourinho hasn’t played those two together very frequently.
United have been the most effective team on the wings this season, and with Giggs and Ronaldo bombing down each flank (and Evra and Neville to support them) it’s going to be a tough task for Chelsea to match them in that area.
Without Petr Cech, Chelsea are crippled in defence, whether they admit it or not (they miss Gallas too, but that’s a different story). Cudicini just isnt that good at commanding his box – he’s more a Lehmann than a Cech. Edwin van der Sar, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic in his marshalling of the defence.
Vidic and Ferdinand make a better pairing than KB and Terry (this one lacks the pace of Gallas), and Manchester United’s full-backs are more attacking than those of Chelsea (Neville gets up there far more than Ashley Cole, who is supposedly a very attacking player).
As a unit, the United defence is more coherent and settled.
4. Desire to Win
It would grossly unfair to say that Chelsea don’t have the same hunger to win as other teams do. However, it would also be naive to assume that the last two titles won’t make a difference on the way Chelsea treat the Premiership.
Already, the Prem is much tougher than two years ago – Chelsea led the line in raising the bar and everyone else has followed and as a result it’s harder to win the league than it was when Chelsea won it first.
Bottom line is that most of Manchester United’s squad hasn’t won the Premiership, Ferguson hasn’t won it for three years and the way they prepared this year (after coming close last year) and came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, you can bet your life on the fact that Manchester United will be treating this game as one that will decide the season. Lose here, and Chelsea have the advantage going into a tough winter in which United’s bench consists of Darren Fletcher, Alan Smith and John O’Shea, while Chelsea have Robben, SWP, Carvalho and Kalou to call upon.
Win here, and United’s title charge is really on. For that reason alone – that United have more to lose with a defeat here than Chelsea – United should be more fired up for the game.
After all, that’s how we beat Liverpool, and that’s how we beat back Arsenal.
Of course, Manchester United are not perfect (and Chelsea are not Liverpool), so you can’t say that United dominate Chelsea all over the park – there are several factors going against United in this game, but apart from Makelele and Essien in the midfield and a star-studded subs bench, I can’t think of any.
Update: Read part two.