Preview: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

  • Chelsea have the slight edge in the series of 42 PL games (14-13-15)
  • Frank Lampard has missed two of his last three penalties
  • Danny Wellbeck’s goals last week were his first in 19 PL games

In just the second week of the Premier League season, two of England’s biggest clubs square off in a huge clash at Old Trafford on Monday.

Manchester United host Chelsea (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in David Moyes’ first home game in charge of the Red Devils… and José Mourinho is coming to town.

In the build up to this gigantic clash plenty of the talk has been about Moyes vs. Mourinho, as the two managers square up early this season in their new roles. Both managers were said to be the favorites to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson when the Scot retired last season, before Moyes got the nod.

Mourinho’s return will cast him as the villain in the awesome amphitheater that Old Trafford has become. Expect a cold reception for the “Special One” as his Chelsea side aim to make it three wins from three to open the season. If they do so, they’ll open up a six point gap between themselves and United early on.

But another subplot is brewing behind the focus on the managers. Enter the fray, Mr. Wayne Rooney.

The subject of two failed bids from Chelsea already this summer, Rooney’s demeanor and silence suggests he wants to leave the Red Devils and join Mourinho’s revolution at Chelsea. But will he start against the team he wants to join?

source: AP
Will Rooney and Torres be teammates next season?

Putting Rooney’s future to one side, United got off to a great start to the season last time out with a 4-1 win against Swansea as Robin van Persie scored two terrific goals and Danny Welbeck added a double. Rooney made a brief cameo against the Swans and all eyes will be on the England international forward on Monday.

As for Chelsea, two routine wins against Hull City and Aston Villa to begin the season made it seem like Mourinho had never left. The Chelsea boss won two Premier League titles in two and a half years in West London from 2004-07 before managing Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

But now he’s back at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho will be keen to make his mark early and this game against Untied offers Chelsea a marque opportunity to get ahead of their title rivals.

As for injuries, Manchester United have several worries ahead of the clash. Right back Rafael is out while Nani, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez will all be missing for Moyes.

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz could miss out, with the eccentric 26-year-old struggling with a hamstring injury. Of course this fixture last year saw Luiz get hacked down by Rafael near the corner flag, during Chelsea’s 2-1 win, and smirk to the crowd while his fellow Brazilian was given a red card.

Expect a frantic start in Manchester, as both teams aim to put their marker down for the season. Hold on tight, this could be a classic.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on facing United at Old Trafford in the past:I knocked them out in the Champions League, I was knocked out by them in the Champions League. I have every result against them. Maybe I have won more than lost, but what playing Man United gives me is pleasure, I like it. Last year when Real Madrid were playing the Champions League knockout phase and everybody was in Madrid with some tension because at that early stage we have to play Man United, I was happy. I like the stadium, I like the opponent and I like the difficulty of the game.”

David Moyes on his first game at Old Trafford: “There has been a lot of things I have been looking forward to – like taking the team on tour and leading them out at Wembley. But to do it at Old Trafford for the first game against Chelsea is a thrill for me, it really is.”

Oscar on facing United: “If we win we can open up a gap of six points to Manchester United already, in addition to the fact they’re the champions and the importance a victory against them has. We know it will be difficult but nevertheless we know we can win at Old Trafford. We did it last year and we’ll hope to accomplish the same this year.”


Such a tough game to call. United are at home and it’s David Moyes’ first league game at Old Trafford. The crowd will be buzzing and both sets of players will be desperate to steal a march on their close rivals. Chelsea will want to open up a six point gap over United, and as long as they lock down Van Persie I can see Mourinho’s men leaving with a win. Promises to be an end-to-end affair, and the Blues will just shade it. Advantage Mourinho.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.