Ordinarily this fixture would have a significant bearing on the title race—but not this year. Both teams have incurred the wrath of their own fans in their last fixtures. Manchester United booed for being dull and impotent, Chelsea players booed for being mutinous. Winning this match might not be enough to assuage a Chelsea fanbase who have seen their idol betrayed and dethroned—and know that finishing in the European places will be hugely difficult.
Wheeled out as the mouthpiece of the dressing room now that Mourinho is gone, Terry has done a lot of work in the press this week to try and get the fans back onside. It won’t be easy—the Blues need to win games, but every victory will conjure the ghost of their previous manager. The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge against an admittedly woeful Sunderland side was utterly toxic. That won’t be much of an issue away at Old Trafford. If anything, Terry and co. will be pleased they don’t have to play in front of their own fans this week.
Named as one of the ‘3 Rats’ by some sections of Stamford Bridge, Fabregas’ credit is pretty low right now. Everything he does and says is currently under scrutiny, and he will have to put in some seriously good performances before May if he’s going to stay in West London. The pressure is getting to him, leading to spats with youth players in training and threatening Pat Nevin with legal action for claiming Fabregas was the leader of a mutiny against Mourinho. That being said, he put in one of his best performances of the season against the Black Cats—can he follow that up at Old Trafford?
One of the many reasons Louis Van Gaal is getting booed by Old Trafford is his treatment of mercurial talent Martial—even after scoring the Frenchman is shunted out wide. When Wayne Rooney appears to have lost both his finishing ability and his touch, LVG’s commitment to his captain is stubborn and poorly received. Martial went through a long goal drought since exploding into the Premier League, and despite his skill is still a young player learning the trade.
The young Brazilian was given acres of space by a very naïve Sunderland defence — but he took full advantage, having his best game of the season. There is no doubting his ability, but the one area that Manchester United have been good is in defence—the Red Devils have only conceded 16 goals in the league, joint second fewest. What Chelsea could really use right now is a fit and in-form Diego Costa to draw defenders away from Oscar, and after his brace against Watford, Costa looks to have got his hunger back, which can only benefit his team mates around him.