The latest round of league fixtures ends tonight and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton continue their countdown to Chelsea’s visit to the north-west…
WE HAVE HISTORY
Almost 45 years ago to the day, on Saturday 24 August 1968, Dave Sexton took his burgeoning Chelsea side to Old Trafford to face the might of Alec Stepney, Paddy Crerand, Bobby Charlton, George Best et al, fresh from their European Cup triumph.
Knighted after masterminding the Wembley triumph, Sir Matt Busby had predicted the west Londoners would present the greatest threat to his club’s title aspirations and 54,870 probably left the stadium in agreement with him.
It was Manchester United’s third home game of the season and while their away form was indifferent, Everton and Coventry City had been beaten by the odd goal before the arrival of the Blues.
Inconsistent Chelsea had won one, drawn one and lost one of their opening three, offering little suggestion they might inflict on United their biggest home defeat for six years.
George Best, manacled by skipper Ron Harris, was the most subdued among his side, effectively marked man-for-man in key areas. The Blues were hungrier, faster, more effective.
The Red Devils’ suspect back line succumbed inside the first minute, Tommy Baldwin swivelling in the box and turning the ball past Stepney. Tony Dunne sliced a clearance straight to Bobby Tambling 12 minutes later, and the club’s second all-time goalscorer made no mistake to make it 2-0. Tambling turned provider before half-time, sneaking a cross through Crerand’s legs for Baldwin to back-heel into the net.
Midway through the second half another Dunne error presented the ball to Alan Birchenall (pictured below), who gratefully snapped up his second of the campaign. Man United had bought winger Willie Morgan from Burnley that morning. Inevitably the call went up that Busby had invested in the wrong area of the pitch.
Back to the modern era and Chelsea were unbeaten at Old Trafford last season in both our meetings in league and FA Cup. United have won three and Chelsea two of the last six at the Theatre of Dreams.
Our last 10 Premier League games against Man Utd at Old Trafford
2003/04 – Drew 1-1
2004/05 – Chelsea won 3-1
2005/06 – Man Utd won 1-0
2006/07 – Drew 1-1
2007/08 – Man Utd won 2-0
2008/09 – Man Utd won 3-0
2009/10 – Chelsea won 2-1
2010/11 – Man Utd won 2-1
2011/12 – Man Utd won 3-1
2012/13 – Chelsea won 1-0
Other fixtures last season
28 October 2012 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea..……..….…2 Man Utd….……..……3
Mata 43 D Luiz og 3
Ramires 53 Van Persie 12
31 October 2012 Capital One Cup fourth round
Chelsea..……..….…5 Man Utd….……..……4
D Luiz pen 31 Giggs 21
Cahill 52 Hernandez 43
Hazard pen 90+4 Nani 58
Sturridge 97 Giggs pen 120
10 March 2013 FA Cup quarter-final
Man Utd..…..….…2 Chelsea…….……..…2
Hernandez 4 Hazard 58
Rooney 10 Ramires 67
1 April 2013 FA Cup quarter-final replay
Chelsea..……..….…1 Man Utd….……..……0
Chelsea v Manchester United in all competitions
Games played 168
Chelsea wins 47
Man United wins 72
Head to head in the League at Manchester United
Games played 71
Chelsea wins 19
Man United wins 29
Biggest league win at Man Utd for each team
Man Utd 6-0 Chelsea – 26/12/1960
Man Utd 0-4 Chelsea – 24/08/1968
Chelsea won at Old Trafford: 113
Man Utd drew a league game at home: 491
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,019
Liverpool won the league: 8,514
Chelsea, unbeaten on the road in the league in four games, started the first two home matches with a pace and intensity that was often lacking in the last few seasons. (One noteworthy exception was the last home game of 2012/13 against David Moyes’s Everton.)
This first away game, against top opposition, will be a huge test of the Blues’ highly-praised forwards’ efficiency against a side that attacks more than visitors to the Bridge have.
It will also be interesting to see how the champions’ ageing defence, which conceded four more goals in the league than Chelsea last season, deals with the fluid movement of the early season leaders.
The 4-4-1-1 of the Ferguson years has morphed into a 4-2-3-1 under the new man but it was familiar to the players and used in Champions League games. Chelsea have been lining up the same way, with lots of switching of position among the front four.
As Manchester United have only played one genuinely competitive match it is difficult to assess whether Moyes will devise game plans according to opponents as he did at Everton – with superior resources at his disposal Ferguson rarely felt the need for special measures.
There do seem to be tweaks taking place however. For decades the Red Devils have deployed wingers who charge towards the by-line and cross or cut back to expose opponents. Against Swansea their direction was generally towards the centre, as Steven Pienaar would do under Moyes at Goodison.
For what it is worth, last season at Swansea, in a 1-1 draw, United attempted 27 crosses – two-and-a-half times more than during Saturday’s 4-1 win over the same opponents. They also attempted 100 – or 20 per cent – fewer passes than their previous visit.
When they lose the ball United quickly convert to defensive banks and defend from the front – even Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck. However this is a Red Devils side with arguably less creativity than many of the past.
Shinji Kagawa offers cleverness in the role behind a striker but less fight than his teammates. The Japanese was relied upon by the previous manager against title rivals because he could unlock a tight game and that will no doubt be the advice he has passed on to his chosen successor.
Ferguson’s last buy, rookie Wilfried Zaha, will have to produce more than stepovers and flicks if he is to affect matches such as this, but he seems capable of unpredictable bursts of skill of which the Blues should be wary.
It is Welbeck’s positional discipline, on the other hand, that warrants inclusion. His hard work exemplifies what already looks a more tenacious, direct, Toffee-flavoured United.
Tactics such as the long ball forward from David De Gea to Danny Welbeck bypass the central midfield, which remains United’s weakest area on the park. Chelsea will not afford Michael Carrick (pictured below) and Tom Cleverley the luxurious space Swansea did, or Wigan in the Community Shield.
The hosts have a back four boasting vast experience but no longer blessed with great mobility, and they defend deep. Mourinho will want his team’s sharp passing and pacier players to expose them. He will be wary of his defence’s occasional lapse in allowing strikers room to shoot – against Van Persie that could be fatal.
Juan Mata was not quite back to full sharpness in the win over Aston Villa but it was his cleverness and redirected shot that earned all three points at Old Trafford last season. David Luiz is still working his way back to fitness and is perhaps more likely to feature against Bayern in the UEFA Super Cup on Friday.
Although United are only one our rivals for honours this season Mourinho will want to lay down a marker in this regenerated rivalry. He may see this as another game for his younger players to learn from rather than start.
As a result we may see Fernando Torres starting ahead of his fellow strikers, with the impressive Romelu Lukaku an impact sub from the bench – the Belgian hit a brilliant hat-trick for West Brom against the Mancunians at the end of last season.
Squad fitness news
David Luiz is close to return from a hamstring injury but is a doubt for this game. Tomas Kalas is out with a leg fracture.
Defender Rafael (hamstring) and attackers Nani (groin), Ashley Young (ankle) and Javier Hernandez (hamstring) are on the Man United injury list.