With just a few hours until kick off, we’re all expecting an epic battle under the lights at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) on Monday.
Several intriguing subplots are brewing around the game, so can both sets of players keep their focus to turn in inspired performances?
José Mourinho has already been playing mind games with United after several bids for Wayne Rooney, with more expected and he also hit out at his rival David Moyes for blocking the bid.
Early impetus this season is more important than ever, following the massive upheaval amongst the top clubs in the Premier League. So the chance for Chelsea to open up a six-point gap between themselves and United is one they are desperate to take.
But United’s players and Moyes will want to get off to a winning start to the season in front of their own fans, in Moyes’ first home game in charge of Manchester United.
A momentous occasion in Manchester awaits us, here are some key battles you can watch out for.
RVP will fancy his chances in this game, but Chelsea managed to thwart the United front man effectively last season as the Blues won at Old Trafford. But in the first game at Stamford Bridge the Dutch international ran the Chelsea backline ragged. Expect some tough challenges early on from Terry as he tries to put RVP in two minds. A battle of minds rather than pace between these two. RVP’s movement is sensational, but so is Terry’s reading of the game.
Michael Carrick vs. Frank Lampard
These two England internationals have battled it out on the biggest stage for many years, with Frank Lampard often coming out on top. Carrick’s passing is sublime and he has been the stalwart of United’s midfield for several seasons. However some question his defensive qualities and marking the elusive Lampard could be tricky. After breaking Chelsea’s all-time goalscoring record last season, Lampard will look to kick on once again under Mourinho. Can Frank prosper again?
Eden Hazard vs. Patrice Evra
If Hazard plays out on the right, this will be an incredibly tough battle between two fiery Gallic players. At 32, Patrice Evra isn’t a spring chicken and Hazard may fancy a chance to run at him. The Belgian winger has impressed Mourinho and this could be an intriguing subplot out on the flank. But Hazard could switch to the left and may give Phil Jones or Chris Smalling an equally tough time as they fill in for the injured Rafael.
A real battle of wits, as a flamboyant Portuguese tactician comes up against a stoic Scotsman with considerable game-time nous. Will Moyes start with Rooney and throw everyone off? Will any of the pre-match mind games from Mourinho distract United’s players? Whatever happens on the pitch, these coaches are desperate to strike first and put down a marker for the season. Mourinho has won at Old Trafford plenty of times with FC Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid. Moyes will be managing his first-ever home game for United in the Theater of Dreams.
Will it be a dream start for the new man in charge?