Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday as they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. United have not won in the league since they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at the end of October, previously winning in the league in mid-September when they beat West Ham United 2-1. United’s poor form saw the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked after the 4-1 defeat to Watford last weekend with Michael Carrick taking the reigns temporarily. Carrick led United to a 2-0 victory over Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening, seeing his side top the group and earning a place in the knockout stages this season.
Ralf Rangnick is expected to sign a six month deal to be United’s interim manager for the remainder of the season, then take up a two-year consultancy spell at the club.Because of the need for a work permit in the United Kingdom, which will not be in action before Sunday’s match, it is expected that Rangnick will take charge of his first United fixture on Thursday with United taking on Arsenal at Old Trafford in a match that will be live on Amazon Prime in the UK. United are expected to endure a few days training with the interim manager, which should hopefully see United adopt a better playing style post-Solskjaer.
Previous meetings with Chelsea and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Chelsea have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 17 times, drawn 23 times with Chelsea winning the remaining 18 matches. United have scored 72 goals, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. Chelsea have scored 71 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. United have kept a total of 16 clean sheets with Chelsea keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 128 yellow cards and four red cards in this fixture with Chelsea players shown a total of 137 yellow cards and six red cards. This is going to be a fiery encounter at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
There is a rather vast history between United and Chelsea with many players donning the shirts of both clubs. Currently, both Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata have played for both and are in with a chance of featuring against their former club this weekend. Romelu Lukaku could feature against United for the first time since he left the Theatre of Dreams – he re-signed for Chelsea in the summer. Radamel Falcao, Juan Sebastian Veron, Mark Bosnich, Mark Hughes, Paul Parker, George Graham, Mal Donaghy and the late Ray Wilkins, a player both sets of supporters will hold immense respect for, have also featured for both clubs in the past.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Chelsea in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea should start against Chelsea. There is no denying that he has improved this season. He has saved penalties, which was a problem for him last season and his confidence has risen. That is what United need in their goalkeeper. He kept his third clean sheet of the season against Villarreal, which should be the starting point for United getting their season back on track. Chelsea sit top of the league at the time of writing and United sit in eighth place, 12 points adrift of the league leaders. Nine points separate United and Manchester City in second place with eight points between them and Liverpool in third.
For almost two months now, United have struggled to grind out results in the Premier League, falling short more often than not, which ended the management career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since beating West Ham United on the 19 September, in which De Gea saved a last-minute penalty, the club has picked up just four points out of a possible 21, which could have seen them as the Premier League leaders if they had collected them. Hindsight is fantastic but just sometimes, it is something that needs to be viewed. For years now, poor form has cost United succeeding post-Ferguson. Winning the Premier League title is important for this club.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles
United’s defence will be much weaker for this match against Chelsea. Harry Maguire is suspended for this match after being sent off against Watford last week and Raphael Varane is still injured. This means that Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones (if he can be risked) will be the players vying for the central defensive positions. Luke Shaw is also coming from that second head injury, so might still be a risk, which means Alex Telles could start again, which is why he has been chosen here. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his right-back position but will need to start pulling performances out of the bag – recently he has not been all that good.
I think Lindelof will keep his place and will be boosted in confidence after that 2-0 victory over Villarreal on Tuesday evening, also keeping a clean sheet, which is something of a rarity for United this season. Eric Bailly could be drafted in to partner the Swede against Chelsea which is a 50/50 for most as Bailly can put in great performances but can also put in very poor performances. That said, he can be rash at times and having a mad heat on the pitch might not be the best against Chelsea. United need to kick on here and getting three points in the bag will be a big boost ahead of a December which will be packed with matches.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes
United’s midfield needs some reinforcement during the January transfer window but for now, the players that are already at the club will have to do. Paul Pogba is out injured, which could see him out of action until next year, although that has not yet been confirmed. Against Chelsea, United will need to play well in this area and with Fred currently being a doubt, I would imagine that Scott McTominay will start, unless Fred is fit to start, which would allow both Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes to start in a 4-3-3 formation, which could be changed at points in the match with United on the attack compared to them defending.
Van de Beek played well against Watford, scoring his first goal of the season, which will hopefully be his first of many. United could really get somewhere with the midfield sorted, which would allow them to push and dominate their opposition, which is a problem they have been having this season. Fernandes is a player that has helped United out time and time again with some sections of the support suggesting that he’s not needed at the club, calling him a stat-padder, which seems a strange thing to say based on what he has given United since he signed almost two years ago now. This midfield is good but could be so much better.
Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford
United have a great selection of attacking players in the squad this season but they have not been used to their strengths so far, which is a shame. Jadon Sancho scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday evening as the club beat Villarreal 2-0 in the penultimate Champions League group stage match, winning their group and earning a place in the knockout stages later in the season. The winger is a great talent to have but his start at the club was not the best, because of injury, lack of form and the poor predicament United were in. It will get better for him and United. He should start on the right-wing, pulling back into right midfield when needed.
Marcus Rashford should start on the left-wing, a position he has excelled in in recent seasons and with a bit of form and confidence, he could go back to being the player he has been in recent seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his tenth goal of the season against Villarreal which was also his 799th career goal. He is going to be seeing to get that 800th goal against Chelsea on Sunday, which would be a great day for him and United, especially if United can take all three points in the match. These three players have so much talent, and eye for goals and great determination, which could be good for United if they all end up working well together.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Amad Diallo
The bench will be depleted for this matches based on the injuries and suspensions but Carrick will have to ensure he has what could be needed on the bench to get a result against Chelsea. That said, any player given a chance, whether from the bench or starting the match will need to put in their best performance as their new manager will be watching and I am sure that he will be taking notes and speak to those not pulling their weight, which will give him a few conversations. Dean Henderson will be the goalkeeper on the bench for this match as I can’t see De Gea being benched as he is in good form ahead of this match, boosted by another clean sheet.
Defensively, United have a problem with no experienced central defenders, unless they are going to risk Phil Jones, which will be a doubt as he could get injured again. That means they will have just Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw, if he is fit enough to play a part this weekend following his head injury. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, if fit and Nemanja Matic could all be called upon if needed. Both McTominay and Matic have played in a back four before, not that it is ideal, so there are options if the worst should happen. In attack, Anthony Martial and Amad Diallo could be called upon to strengthen the attack, should they be needed.
Written by John Walker