Opposition View: Manchester United vs Chelsea ft. Stretford Paddock

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Chelsea travel to the north west to face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday evening.

We caught up with Alex Turk from Stretford Paddock to get a look inside the opposition ahead of the league clash.

United have only claimed six points from their opening four league encounters this season. What have you made of the Red Devils start to the campaign?

All-in-all though, it’s been a poor start to the league season, aligned with such a disappointing ‘summer’ transfer window. The final 10 minutes of the Newcastle game were the most convincing United have been in the league so far. 

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They were very fortunate to escape Brighton with three points, whilst the losses to both Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford were as woeful as each other. However, the win at PSG in midweek was arguably the most impressive showing under Solskjaer so far, in which United finally looked to be nearing full sharpness. You’d seriously back the hosts to enter Saturday’s game full of confidence.

Manchester United are unbeaten in five league meetings against Chelsea, last losing back in November 2017. Would you consider the Blues to be a favourable opponent in recent years?

I’d say it’s certainly now a less daunting task than it was from around 2012 to 2017, particularly at Stamford Bridge. It’s just a shame United couldn’t make it seven unbeaten in all competitions in the FA Cup semi-finals back in July! 

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I think the 4-0 at Old Trafford last season was a bit of a freak result, since Chelsea were actually very impressive in the first half. There’s no denying Solskjaer has had Lampard’s number though. Despite United’s win in Paris on Tuesday, it’s a really good time for Chelsea to come to Old Trafford with no fans present. Expect goals!

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought in Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani most notably this summer. What did you make of United’s business?

In terms of fan pleasure, probably the complete opposite to Chelsea… Not good enough, simply put, but it unfortunately continued a dismal trend. In the seven years since 2013, United have spent an average of £85.4 million on new players following Champions League qualification. When the club have missed out, they’ve averaged an expenditure of £161.8 million – almost double. 

Of course, it isn’t a small sum of money overall, but it’s the personnel, or lack of, that is most disappointing. Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles are positive squad additions, but not the signings United needed to push forward. 

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Meanwhile, Cavani’s arrival screamed panic and signing two 18-year-old’s as an alternative to Jadon Sancho. It’s been suggested that Solskjaer didn’t receive ANY of his first-choice options this summer, which is fairly barbaric considering how he led the club to a third-place finish. United are still a top-class centre-back, defensive midfielder and right winger away from being anywhere near where they need to be.

Bruno Fernandes has been extremely influential since joining the club in January – recording 16 goals and 11 assists in 28 appearances. Is the ‘Pernandes’ label unfair?

Of course it is, but it’s just nice to have a player than opposition fans are genuinely fearful of again. Fernandes has been nothing short of revolutionary since arriving at Old Trafford and Champions League football wouldn’t be a possibility without him. Only the most special players can make as big an impact on and off the pitch in such a short period after joining a club. 

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He was understandably looking fatigued in the back end of last season, but he’s now looking refreshed and makes United’s attack ten times as dangerous. To sign him for less than £50 million was an absolute coup.

As reported, Man Utd were leading the way, along with Liverpool, in trying to gain more power with the ‘Project Big Picture’. Now there is reports of a potential ‘European Premier League’. Is this bad news for football moving forward?

Although I do like the proposed NBA-style format and can see why the interested parties are all-for the idea, a European Super League just seems unsustainable. I think that’s the biggest issue for me. Even if United or Chelsea were allowed to play in both the Premier League and a Super League, you get no points for guessing which would be the priority. That’s not the worst part though. Featuring in both a Super League and Premier League, as well as domestic cup competitions, would mean these clubs are potentially playing in 90+ games a season. If clubs aren’t comfortable with the current fixture schedule, then that schedule would be a whole different beast.

Can we get a Manchester United starting XI and score prediction ahead of the game?

United performed admirably using a three-at-the-back system in Paris on Tuesday, but I think they’ll return to Solskjaer’s favoured 4-2-3-1 to counter Chelsea’s system. De Gea will start in goal, with Wan-Bissaka and, most likely, Shaw in the full-back positions. 

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Despite his strong showing against PSG, I think Tuanzebe will be on the bench, with Lindelof and Maguire resuming their partnership in central defence. I expect Matic and Pogba to return as the midfield pivot, with the ever-present Fernandes in front of them. Greenwood is likely to return on the right, with Rashford on the left and… a debut for deadline day signing, Edinson Cavani.

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