Manchester United v Chelsea

We travel to Old Trafford looking to compound Manchester United’s ever-increasing woes — and to right the Blue ship after Tuesday’s very poor performance against Real Betis in the Champions League, the worst under Jose Mourinho according to the great man himself.

Mourinho admitted after that rare defeat: “I’ve been here for 15 months and we have played perhaps 80 games at Chelsea and this was the worst performance. The first half was too bad to be true. I know everything was bad. I cannot find a positive out of the game.”

It certainly wasn’t the best way to prepare for a match of this magnitude. Mourinho has since held a meeting with the players and believes there will be a better team on display today. Let’s hope so.

United’s travails this season have been well publicised. Thrashed 4-1 by Middlesbrough last weekend and beaten in the Champions League by Lille in midweek, the Red Devils are in the midst of a genuine crisis. Their captain, Roy Keane, ‘publically’ berated every man and his dog (well, a few of the younger players and Rio Ferdinand) after his side’s loss to Lille — which suggests that not everything is as rosy as Alex Ferguson.

Combine what’s been happening at Old Trafford recently with our (minor) blip in form, and you have all the makings of an intriguing contest — one which United cannot afford to lose (they’re currently 13 points behind with a game in hand).

A 17-man squad has travelled to Manchester, including Asier Del Horno who was missing for the defeat in Seville. Two players who haven’t made the trip north are Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben; both are apparently injured.

Didier Drogba’s likely to be recalled in place of Gudjohnsen; it’ll be interesting to see how Rio Ferdinand copes with the big Ivorian.

Prediction: I think it’s safe to ignore our performance against Betis, and United’s thrashing at the hands of Middlesbrough. But what can’t be ignored is our record at Old Trafford — 4 League defeats in 39 years — and Jose Mourinho’s record of never having lost to United as a manager (two games with Porto, four games with Chelsea). There’s also the small matter of United’s home record this season: only one win in the League.

It would be foolish to write off United (they have a knack of producing results when it matters most: see Arsenal, Old Trafford, 2004) but on this occasion I’m confident we’ll come away with the win.

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Manchester United 1 – 0 Chelsea · Update

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Manchester Evening News; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Times; The Independent; The Guardian; Daily Telegraph.

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