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Ferguson will relish Chelsea battle

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Phil McNulty | 07:54 UK time, Friday, 19 September 2008

Sir Alex Ferguson welcomed Luiz Felipe Scolari to the Premier League in trademark fashion - namely with a psychological dig below the belt in the shape of a jibe about Chelsea's ageing squad.

It was the first shot in a phoney war rather than a serious assessment of a Chelsea side that pushed United to the last day in the title race and came within a penalty kick of beating them in the Champions League final in May.

But it will be intriguing to see Ferguson's theory put to the test at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as a United team who have made a poor start to the season face Chelsea, who are on a mission to make a nonsense of his comments.

Chelsea and Manchester United are touted by most experts as the two teams who will seriously contest the title this season, and the former have made the sort of flying start their rivals have found difficult to over-turn in the past.

Ferguson's last week will not rank among his finest, with a richly-deserved defeat at Liverpool followed by a colourless Champions League display against Villarreal only lifted by a lively cameo from the returning Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even the fates appeared to conspire against the old street-fighter, with John Terry's red card against Manchester City rescinded, thus allowing him to face United on Sunday while they will be without suspended Nemanja Vidic.

Ferguson, however, will use that perceived injustice to prod his side into what he will see as a statement of intent against his latest high-profile rival.

The battle of wits between Scolari and Ferguson will be studied intently on Sunday for vital signs of how the battle between the super-powers (and master managers) will pan out this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Scolari has made an almost faultless start to life in England, with Chelsea showing that grinding winning mentality of old bolted on to a new freedom of expression under the Brazilian coach.

Chelsea may have stuttered to victory at Wigan, but the way they outclassed an improving Manchester City after going behind at Eastlands last Saturday was ominously impressive.

Scolari has been engaging, humourous - but also gave a clear message about what he expects with an unexpectedly critical reaction to Chelsea's excellent (or at least I thought it was) thrashing of Bordeaux in the Champions League.

Don't be fooled by the tic-tac arm-waving and those gurning Gene Hackman facial expressions. This is a serious man here on serious business.

But he is combustible and Ferguson will hope to use his team to get under his skin and disturb the equilibrium and relative calm we have seen from Scolari this season.

Scolari has not transformed Chelsea into a flamboyant outfit in a few weeks, but there is more attacking intent about them and the introduction of Deco gives them added flair.

There is certainly less of the "what we have we hold" mentality that was such a stunning success under Jose Mourinho - Scolari likes going for the kill.

Whereas most managers would regard a visit to the league leaders with trepidation after the start United have had, Ferguson will be exactly the opposite.

He will see it as the perfect stage to restore what he regards as the natural order, namely with United taking second place to no-one. This is the sort of challenge that shapes his managerial personality.

If he stood in front of cameras and microphones and lambasted United's "Conference" defending after they lost at Liverpool, we can only imagine what was said in the confines of the dressing room.

And he is likely to make it swiftly known that the sort of idle display Dimitar Berbatov delivered after his early impact at Anfield will not be tolerated.

Ronaldo's performance against Villarreal, albeit a short cameo, did instantly add an extra dimension to United's play and he will surely start at Chelsea. This alone makes it a different United to the one that was so limp at Liverpool.

Ferguson will not accept another effort like the one he got at Anfield last Saturday, when Liverpool delivered the ultimate insult to his senses by showing more stomach for the battle than his side.

He will also want to ensure Chelsea do not open up a nine-point gap over United which, while not insurmountable, would be very problematical against a side that does not exactly do losing.

Scolari, for his part, will be a coach wanting make an early point in charge of a team still nursing wounds from last season - United fans have already immortalised John Terry's pivotal penalty miss in the Champions League final in less than flattering song.

As the Ryder Cup captains have been saying, it is about the players in action not the leaders on the margins - but the body language of Ferguson and Scolari will provide an intriguing backdrop to the action on the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Scolari's Chelsea are in form and firing while United are scratching around for their best form and looking a little off the pace - but in his own cussed way, that might just be the way Ferguson likes it as he looks for a catalyst to spark off United's season.


  • Comment number 1.

    Fair point Phil, but that's a lot or arm waving and gurning to try and ignore

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Any thoughts on Ronaldo's fitness Phil?

    He has come back quicker than expected - Is throwing him on from the start not a risk or is he now completely fit?

  • Comment number 4.

    I too worry that fergie may be risking ronaldo. I would personally see how it goes without him, start him on the bench as fishcity said. I think Hargreaves does a very good job wide right anyway.

  • Comment number 5.

    For us Portuguese speakers,the stressed syllable is the penultimate in this instance..Scolari will learn,I'm sure...

  • Comment number 6.

    To happyfishcity...Correct...and misprint (mistake?) corrected! Many thanks for pointing that out!

    Scolari's pronunciation is unusual isn't it, but his English overall is excellent. He just pronounces it as he sees it.

    You will not get me criticising him - not when my foreign languages are non-existent.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why do people like to make up this back-to-the-wall stuff? I don't think Ferguson would think that Man Utd's poor form is any kind of benefit for Sunday. I think he "would relish" his players playing a decent game of football for a change.

  • Comment number 8.

    The comment about Berbatov spot on, he is a lazy player. He was invisibkle after the gioal on Saturday. Even the hair dryer might not be enough. As a neutral, I think Chelsea are going to batter United, they want revenge after the champions League final and I think it could be 3 or 4 to nil.

  • Comment number 9.

    I would agree with you about Fergie, (Little?) Phil. However, whether the idea goes from theory to practice on the pitch remains to be seen. Chelski are an impressive squad this year.

    I do have hope we might kick our season off at the bridge, though. To me, it feels a little like when Arsenal visited us a couple of years back, and grabbed a late winner thanks to Adebayor. Started poorly, but they ground their way back into the game, and I think we can do the same. Fergie must get the personel correct though, he got it wrong in the second half at Liverpool, when anyone could see that Hargreaves needed to replace Carrick, not Giggs. Him and anderson-son-son could have given Scholes a decent platform to pass in the top three, and pressed Liverpool further back. Instead we looked flat in shape and allowed them back into the game through indivisuual errors.

    On Sunday, Evans can cover for Vidic perfectly ably, and as long as Hargo and Anderson, so effective together, can nullify Lampard and Deco, Scholes and Rooney can link play with two from Berbatov/Tevez/Ronaldo creating space in attacking wide areas.

    We need to defend well and use our natural width against Chelski's streamlined efficiency.

  • Comment number 10.

    Bmthexile beat me to say again ( I have posted else where) that I think the end result on Sunday could be Utd's heaviest defeat in many, many a year.. by at least 2 goals if not 3 or 4...
    Berb was a total waist of money because the way we play, not a chance will he run up and down that pitch all game.. which is what's needed and worst still ..
    It was bad enough having one player on the pitch who never ever .. ever... ever tackles (I mean full blooded tackling and not tickling someones foot kinda tackles) but with Berb we now have two... Mr Ronnie might be pleased with the company though.
    Utd's worst season to come, nothing won, SAF to retire.. I'll save this link just in case I am spot on...

  • Comment number 11.

    Cantona, so you imagine a 4132 being on the cards? But what about the relative fitnesses of Ronaldo and Berbatov? I think we are more likely to see a 442 to be honest, but i'm not sure where the width will come from and in disagreement with my previous comment I can't see hargreaves on the right as his presence will surely be needed in the middle of the park trying to break up play.

  • Comment number 12.

    Sir Alex will do his utmost with the resources available to get at least a point on Sunday, but as always, it's about the players on the field and so far the Man United team hasn't gelled or been anywhere near it's best.

    I think the first 20 minutes is key, whoever settles in midfield and gains control will probably win the spoils for their team.

    One things for certain only one team here can raise their game from what has been served up in the first 3 / 4 matches.

    I think United will sneak a win - ref permitting

  • Comment number 13.

    There must be a huge temptation to start with Ronaldo because he looked so sharp when he came on against Villarreal, and sometimes it just needs a spark or a moment of inspiration to get a season going for a side as good as United.

    Just on Ronaldo, I think Ferguson has handled his situation brilliantly.

    I, for one, thought United should just give up and let him go because of all the links with Real Madrid.

    Ferguson, however, stuck to his guns and refused to sell (backed by a much-maligned board it should be added) and Ronaldo looked unaffected in his brief appearance on Wednesday.

    On the backs-to-the-wall stuff, one of Ferguson's great strengths has been to foster an "us against the world" mentality at United and it has served them well.

  • Comment number 14.

    Deco will control midfield as he always did when he played against them for Barca. I just cannot see where Uniteds midfield can cope with Chelseas? Carrick completely out of depth here, Scholes legs are all but gone, Hargreaves/Anderson not convincing...Utd are relying heavily on their Judas, sad really. I see Scholes or Rooney to be sent off if Chelsea get first goal.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree that Berbatov looked disinterested against Liverpool. What's that about? All the fuss about leaving us and then he grab hold of the new opportunity like someone being asked to grab hold of an electric fence.

    Call me bitter, but I don't wish him well.

  • Comment number 16.

    One thing I think I have managed to assume in my many years as a UTD supporter is that Fergie's personal relationships with his players mean a lot (possibly too much on some occassions). So much so in fact that he often refuses to take the "sensible" route in certain situations, be that for the better or worse is up for discussion, there are examples of both. I believe the reason Ronaldo was held so tightly is due to these affections Sir Alex has for him. The same I believe can be said for the reason that Ryan Giggs still gets as many games he does. Don't get me wrong, Giggs was, and can still be a huge force for Utd, but I don't think he is the best player for Utd on the left wing. But Fergie would rather keep him, than bring somebody in who he made not bond with so strongly.

  • Comment number 17.

    United will miss Queiroz more than expected. I think his influence in the dressing room, especially with the non English players, was very important last season. I'm worried that Fergie will resort to panic measures as he often did under pressure in previous years. I must admit I wish we weren't up against a resurgent Chelski so early in the season.

  • Comment number 18.

    Is it right that Ferguson resorted to panic measures in previous years without Quieroz?

    I don't remember that and would be interested in examples.

  • Comment number 19.

    Though I'd love to see Utd win (as always) does anyone else share my fears that we are going to get absolutely slaughtered this weekend?

  • Comment number 20.

    To be honest I'm not surprised United have made a relatively slow start (although hardly calamitous four points from three matches, two more than after three matches last term).

    The players aren't machines - goodness I'm a mere supporter and even I can't remotely 'get up' for this season yet - only seems like a couple of weeks ago that i was in Moscow watching United win another European Cup.

    I know the hallmark of United teams in this Sir Alex era (and to be fair Liverpool in the 70s and 80s) has been to treat each new season as something totally fresh, but last term was such a landmark one for United (another one) that it's hardly a surprise the players are slightly off the pace in August and September.

    And to be honest with that unforgettable Olympic Games, and now the Ryder Cup, football seems to have taken a back seat for now .. which i for one applaud.

    Two things

    1) United will be there and there abouts yet again this season .. I would have thought every pundit in the land had learned their lesson from autumn 2005 when criticising United (remember they went from fading force, fergie finished to European champions three years later)

    2) If Chelsea win on Sunday it is not any kind of revenge for the European Cup final .. not even a modicum of revenge (yet I know that word will be used if they do win).

  • Comment number 21.

    Berbatov's idle display against liverpool i think your wrong i've not seen berba close down as much as he did plus he was carrying a knock most of the second half

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear NickM74 -

    We only usually start to show our dominance by Xmas - give everyone else a head start !!

  • Comment number 23.

    The last time Queiroz left, United suffered their worst drought in years. Sir Alex's assistants have always been important to him, probably more so at this stage in his career. His most successful periods have without exception been with a coach at his side who he trusts entirely - the prominent 3 being Brian Kidd, Steve McLaren and Carlos Queiroz. I'll admit I know very little of Mike Phelan's coaching abilities and how he compares to the aforementioned top-class assistants, other than comments saying how much the players like him and how highly Fergie rates him. Does Phelan command the respect his predecessors did? Can he do the same jobs which, interestingly, Giggs claims Queiroz was trusted with? At his age, Fergie needs a man to shoulder some of his burden and I hope Phelan can do that, it was a last minute appointment so clearly it wasn't a instantly obvious or natural progression for Phelan, which suggests Fergie may have compromised slightly and taken the 'best man available'. Queiroz was also a motivator in the dressingroom, the players looked up to him and respected him, so I believe the loss of Carlos is undoubtedly part of United's poor start and they will have to adjust quickly to accept his absence.

    With regards to Sunday, I don't think United will win, but I don't think it'll be comprehensive defeat either. It will be a tough, tight match and I expect the hair-dryer will be notch 11 this week - Fergie will want those players scared to come in at half-time and full-time having not performed. This will be an absolutely fascinating match, it already looks like this could potentially be the most exciting title race we've seen in years.

    Can't wait!

  • Comment number 24.

    Why is everyone being so negative about Man United? We have a win, a draw and a loss in the Premiership. Winning the game in hand puts us 3 points off Chelsea. Not a disaster at all, especially when we get the win on Sunday.

    And Berbatov? ChrisinBlackpool said that running up and down the pitch is "what is needed". It absolutely is not with Rooney and Tevez as the two main strikers. Running "up and down" is what they do very well. What we needed is someone up front to play off. A sort of target man who can bring the attacking players together, as Scholes does from the midfield. We don't want another "runner", rather someone to sit up front and provide the touches of excellence to link play and create chances. Berbatov is in my opinion the most technically gifted player in the world and he will be excellent this season I am sure. Although he may have looked "disinterested" against Liverpool, he still got an assist and I'm sure the way his performance seemed is largely due to a lack of service. Waste of money? Definitely not. People said Ballack was a bad signing when he first joined Chelsea, now he's the best centre mid in the Premiership. United will not get slaughtered this Sunday. No way. My only slight concern is Vidic's absence but I'll still go for a 2-1 win for Man U.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am a Liverpool supporter and of course I'd want this game to end up in a draw. However, I get a sneaky feeling that the "Ronaldo factor" may come into play and that United will take all three points. What is interesting about this scenario is how Chelsea players react from the defeat and how Scolari, Chelsea board and fans react to it too. There seems to be an evergrowing feeling at Chelsea that mistakes and slip ups are not allowed.

  • Comment number 26.

    United have always been slow starters, dropping points before christmas, but then when the games come thick and fast United traditionally start to improve and have a better record in the second half of the season than any other club. This year will be no different.

    Queiroz is obviously being missed, but that is understandable as he was responsible for the majority of coaching and training. Whoever Ferguson brought in as assistant was going to take time to get the players to adjust to different coaching methods, and as Mike Phelan was already familiar to the squad and set-up any teething problems should be short lived.

    As for the game on Sunday, well obviously it will be tough, United went to Stamford Bridge last season as the better team and still managed to lose. While i'd like to see a United win, i feel a draw would be a good result, as if United win the game in hand the gap is closed, the most important thing is not to lose more ground. On Sunday, i'd be inclined to start with Ronaldo on the bench as he won't be 100% fit, so wait and see how the game progresses and if need be bring him on to inject a bit of pace and flair in the second half against tiring Chelsea legs. I'd also start with Hargreaves in the middle, as almost everytime he plays United look a better team, the amount of work he does for the team that is often not picked up on tv cameras is impressive. And Rooney also needs to start in a central position as although hard-working, he is wasted out wide.

    As for post #14 "Carrick is out of his depth here", not only are you wrong but if you read any of the news or watched last weeks match you would know that Carrick is injured and wont play anyway

  • Comment number 27.

    Everybody is entitled to Phil's opinion. Man U are just playing well. If they have had a poor start it is not because they have suddenly become crap. Is is it that maybe, just maybe Chelsea have become better, in spite of the so-called aging squad?

    Bring on Man U and let the Scitish beet root meet defeat. AGAIN!

  • Comment number 28.

    Berbatov, in my opinion, disappeared from the game at Liverpool last week. Tevez was energetic but ineffective after the first half-hour while Rooney was out of position on the right-flank.

    There was little or no outlet for United from Berbatov and of course defensive frailties were exposed as Liverpool built up pressure.

    Ferguson said it himself - no performances from anyone other than maybe Rio Ferdinand.

    There was an improvement against Villarreal and I would not be surprised to see further improvement on Sunday.

  • Comment number 29.

    To those who say that United's "poor start" is down to losing Queiroz, have you suddenly suffered a bout of amnesia? Wasn't Queiroz the assistant manager last year? Didn't United make a much worse start (in arguably easier fixtures) last year? Didn't United go on to win the Premier League and Champions' League last year?

  • Comment number 30.

    I hate to use the tired old cliche, but footbal can be a funny game - witness last week at Anfield, Liverpool had up to that point in the season been struggling for form and were without there two leading players; at 1 - 0 down they could have imploded, but then a bad defensive error changed everything and suddenly Liverpool looked confident whilst United did not get another kick.

    I feel Sunday's game could be similar: either it will go to form - and if it does, United will be steam rollered - or a little something, be it an error, piece of magic or even Chelsea paying their great rivals too much respect and allowing United into the game, and it could kick start United's season.

    Here's hoping for the latter, but fearing the former!

  • Comment number 31.

    Think it is way too early to talk about a "Quieroz factor." It's an insult to an all-time great manager.

    As Thellers writes, United got off to a slow start last season. The difference is that this time Chelsea (and Liverpool) have got off well.

    Chelsea were surrounded by uncertainly last season with Jose Mourinho's position under discussion. This season they are off and running very quickly.

  • Comment number 32.

    I agree completely, sometimes it can take one big match to turn things around, one moment of magic can start a run of good form, but equally a massive defeat at the hands of rivals can have the same effect. Lets hope so.

    As for losing Queiroz, I think it will have had an effect, but as thellers correctly said, the same run of poor form is a common utd trait, whether Carlos was there or not.

  • Comment number 33.

    You can't read anything into starts. Last season it was widely accepted Chelsea were out of it after their draw with Wigan and it ended up going to the last day. In fact, for a long time it only looked like being between Arsenal and United

    If you're within 10 points of the top by christmas, and 5 points by March, there is always a chance.

    I remember when people thought rationally about football. Nowadays every encounter and dropped point is completely blown out of proportion

  • Comment number 34.

    It's a funny one for Chelski fans as even if they win they can't say anything because we beat them in the first all English european cup final and that is in the history books forever despite what happens.

    A lifetime of teasing. It will be a tough game though as said because United don't often start well, like last year. We shall see.

  • Comment number 35.

    Chelsea will win

    however should i put money on this, they will draw

  • Comment number 36.

    He won't relish it at all considering how pathetically we've been playing recently. Mistakes left, right and centre and Rooney's talent is slowly being wasted away.

  • Comment number 37.

    for some reason i think this game aint gonna be pretty as a united fan

    its either gonna be a 0-0 borefest

    or a 2-0 chelsea win

    after a terrible game against liverpool i just honestly dont know whats gonna happen!

    one thing i know will happen is when ronaldo gets on the pitch the united fans will be in full song!

    "he plays on the left.........."

  • Comment number 38.

    I have been watching United for over 35 years, and judging by what I have seen from the games so far and the background tactical mistakes Ferguson is making (without Queiros to consult)...

    We are going to get bombed on Sunday.

    Brace yourselves lads.


  • Comment number 39.


  • Comment number 40.

    Phil, that has been rumbling in the back of my mind for months - where have I seen Scolari before? You hit the nail on the head - Gene Hackman! I giggled at that!

    Two questions - one silly and one serious. I don't want to engage in pedantification, but wouldn't 'problematic' rather than 'problematical' have been enough? If I'm wrong then sorry, I'm an idiot...

    I'm not so sure about your Quieroz opinion. They say that behind every man there's a great woman. Now I'm not suggesting that he's a great woman, but don't you think that Quieroz was an integral part of the team at Utd., one that will be missed both from a footballing perspective and from a human one? I'm almost certain that his departure will have left the Portugese (speaking) guys feeling a little uneasy and may affect their form.

    (by the way, as I feel forced to mention every time I post about Utd., I'm not a Man. Utd. fan..)

  • Comment number 41.

    Did I spell 'Portugese' wrongly? It doesnt look right...

  • Comment number 42.

    Portuguese - sorry about that!. I'm off to Porto on business a week on Monday, so I need to get that right! Adeus...

  • Comment number 43.

    To Europaddy.

    Portuguese - but my initial blog post said Chelsea were "in form and struggling" so don't be too hard on yourself.

    Problematic? Problematical? Not sure really.

    I take your point about the Portuguese players being affected by Quieroz going, but Ferguson is the main man.

    Quieroz was influential, but Ferguson's achievements were legendary well before he arrived.

    If they are unsettled, I am sure Ferguson will help them get over it!

  • Comment number 44.

    Chelsea have scored thirteen goals and conceded three so far this season. As Paul Weller would say, That's Entertainment. Despite their failure so far to produce anything similar, United will be up for the game on Sunday, probably in a way that we haven't seen from them yet this season. Yet Scolari has liberated Chelsea to play flowing inventive football which United will struggle to cope with given their current makeshift defence. If we beat United on Sunday Big Phil can keep stretching Chelsea to three syllables for as long as he likes - and Blues fans will probably join him!

  • Comment number 45.

    I don't see where all the doom and gloom is coming from re Man U's form. We are slow starters, nothing new their. We didn't react to Liverpool's pressing game last week, but the lesson was learned and I thought the movement and speed of play in midfield on Weds v VR was terriffic.

    Hargreaves and Ronny are now getting matches and the strenght will return. The goals will flow soon. 0-1 Utd on Sun. Keep the faith.

  • Comment number 46.

    1manUnited! Here we go again! I cant see why Ronaldo is being forced into games despite his lack of fitness. Poor slave! Come on BLUES! Lets teach em a lesson. No one crosses the bridge and return unharmed.

  • Comment number 47.

    look!! you poor manutd fans are forces to to mention that not impressive at all moscow penalty win to calm your self from the horrible prospect of the coming sunday's manutd shattering

    I really believe and hope sunday will be such a downfall for manutd that they won't be able to recover till the end of season itself I think the best you can hope for is a 3-0 humilation

    and I'm really sorry for those of of you who are such f**l's to hope for a manutd win (taking a look at chelsea's home record would be quite useful

  • Comment number 48.

    To chelseaisking

    Not so impressive win?...Um...WHO WON?????...Who has the CL? who went home that night with nowt but a pyschologically scared captain and a useless manager?

    Who suffered the treble horror last season?

    Who did the 'WORTHY' double last season DESPITE having less points at this stage?

    Ask YOURSELF these questions before you spout your wishful thinking.

    FYI records are nothing if the trophies arent brought in, let it grow to 810 undefeated at home for all I care:

    1. They're there to be broken.
    2. If you win JACK then I'd rather not have that record.

    Arsenal did the double on us, we won the EPL.

    Man City then did the same, we won the EPL and CL

    let Liverpool do it...who knows we might do the treble if that trend continues.

    One more thing, yh unconvincing, but we're CL champs, ur CL chumps...second is not good enough! CHEW ON IT!!

  • Comment number 49.

    United's start hasn't been that disappointing or surprising. Chelsea's start hasn't been that good. Bit strange for so many people to be drawing conclusions from 3 games. This stuff about United getting hammered is stupid. Spurs won't be relegated either - i'm willing to go on record with that!

    Deco gets jelly legs whenever he plays a half decent team (ask any Barca fan). I have really never been impressed with him. He's not much of a tracker either so, with Essien out, Chesea could get bossed about a bit in the middle but I can't see either team worrying the other defensively. I foresee a bore draw i'm afraid - or a one-nil to either side.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    If last of the table Tottenham can draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, then definitely the Champions can win. Now I know football doesn't work that way; and that every game is different but I feel the Sir will go at Scolari with every thing he's got!!

    Glory Glory....

  • Comment number 52.

    Knowing our current form and performance, there is no way we'll win against Chelsea just no way!

    How can anyone expect utd to win when we can't even score!

    Then you have the point we're not losing well it's the next worst thing to losing.

    Ofcourse I don't want the useless Chelsea to win but I reckon they WILL.

    It's only a matter of time before Utd do get up and running and then you'll do your pants a heavy job.

    Also, it's far too early to say utd won't win because as everyone knows football is unpredictable!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    Very interesting blog Phil.

    I thought Manchester Utd played very well against a spirited and determined Villareal.

    This year the four Spanish teams in the CL look better prepared than those we saw in the last year. Beating Villareal, Barça, Athletico and Real Madrid will not be easy at all.

    For Man Utd, flank defenders Gary Neville and Patricio Evra did well in their first CL outing this season.

    Chelsea footballers have been scoring goals in abundance in their pre season friendlies and also now in the ongoing non friendlies. They have been playing a more open and attacking game than before. It has its advantageous and also disadvantageous.

    During the last quarter of an hour against Villareal, Manchester Utd launched a furious all out attack with Nani, Anderson and Ronaldo threatening the men in yellow. There were no goals to show but the Red Devils demonstrated that they have the fire power to create hell for their rivals.

    Let us wish Chelsea, Man United and their fans a fine outing.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 54.

    I am a Chelsea fan but do expect United to treat this as a cup final and try to hit Chelsea very early on or just before or after the break. This is Fergusons favourite ploy and hopefully Chelsea are wise to it. I believe United need this game and thats what is going to make them desperate and a focused Chelsea team can take advantage of this. I expect bookings and UNITED PLAYERS WHINGING AND PERHAPS EVEN KICKING DOORS, HITTING PEOPLE ETC..WHATS YOUR POINT OF VIEW ON THOSE INCIDENTS ALEX? Apparently, if you are prepared to pay Uniteds club debts you can buy the cliub for a penny! , Richest club in the world my arse....this is more than a football match

  • Comment number 55.

    I think Chelsea are a better side than United and they believe it now! United always try to intimidate or bully their opponents but Chelsea are more powerful and even quicker this season....United heads will drop before Chelsea are finished with them and Ferguson
    may end up having to deal with his players antics after the match as seems to be traditional behaviour for English vice captains of late

  • Comment number 56.

    Stoke we love you for a day!

  • Comment number 57.

    "Chelsea and Manchester United are touted by most experts as the two teams who will seriously contest the title this season, "

    And that is the most damning indictment of the "let's all sign for the same teams because that is the only way to win things" philosophy

  • Comment number 58.

    Yeah yeah, last season was the worst start ever, or was it the one before? erm or is it this season?....... Heard it all before. Both teams will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. No news at all.

  • Comment number 59.

    Utd won't win this week, Chelsea even without Essien are so hard to break down.

    But they will get something from the game unless a calamitous mistake gives Chelsea the win.

    But whats there to debate about? Regardless of this week we know that..

    1) Chelsea will be efficient, but with more flair than under Mourinhio and Grant.

    2) United will be right up there after some last gasp goals from Ronaldo.

    3) Liverpool, just when they seem to be making progress will hit a bad run of form which leaves them out of the race.

    4) And Arsenal will be brilliant at times and frustrating at others, inconsistent.

    The only one with any evidence of changing is Liverpool, who Benitez seems to have got winning and snatching points when playing awful. But i doubt itll last long.

    So regardless of what happens, it will be the same front finishers this year as it has been for many years.

    And the body language will give us nothing, just generally be another attempt by the two to psych out the other.

  • Comment number 60.

    The previous post sums up what's wrong with the $ky premier league. It's just so predictable.

    We hope and pray every year that something will shake things up, and it's true Man-Shiekh-ster city are about to, but it will take a couple of years.

    Most of the season is teams like Man Utd and Chel$ki beating teams with 5% of their purchasing power.

    Look at Chel$ski

    Got Drogba at the African Nations Cup? Buy Anelka for £15.

    Got an "injury crisis"? Turn to the German World Cup captain.

    Got any problem? Spend another £50 million. Buy Sevchenko for £30 million and then let him go for nothing. Lose £10 million on Wright-Phillips so no other team can have him, and who cares if this means no-one watches one of England's brighest players for three years.

    And do the paying supporters care? Not as long as "their" team can win games. They just keep buying the shirts and watching $ky fron their pub in Surrey or Bankok.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is a myth that Man U are slow starters, Last year was an exception, and last year they actually outplayed their opponents just didn't get the results.

    A quick research since 2002. Top 4's points in first 4 games and final standings

    1 Arsenal 7
    2 Pool 6
    3 Man U 8
    5 Chelsea 8

    1 Man U 8
    2 Arsenal 8
    4 Chelsea 6
    5 Pool 8

    1 Arsenal 12
    2 Chelsea 10
    3 Man U 9
    4 Pool 5

    1 Chelsea 12
    2 Arsenal 10
    3 Man U 5 (They wound up 19 points behind Chelsea)
    (5) Pool 7

    1 Chelsea 12
    2 Man U 10
    3 Pool 6
    4 Arsenal 6

    1 Man U 12
    2 Chelsea 9
    3 Pool 4
    4 Arsenal 5
    4 Pool 5

    1 Man U 15
    2 Chelsea 10
    3 Pool 10
    4 Arsenal 10
    4 Pool 10

    So last year was an exception when Man U started poorly but won the title, they are not a slow starter.

  • Comment number 62.

    2008 Man U should be 5 not 15

  • Comment number 63.

    Excellent maths to show Man U£d are not slow starters.

    They seem this season to have had a hangover from the sale or not of Ronaldo.

    It's just a matter of time. U£d are going to get squeezed by the US credit crunch and will nned to take the cash from whoever can offer most - Chel$ki, Man-Shiekh-ster City or Real Madrid.

  • Comment number 64.

    If Ronaldo doesnt start, I'll eat my hat!

  • Comment number 65.

    Excellent maths to show Man U?d are not slow starters.

    They seem this season to have had a hangover from the sale or not of Ronaldo.

    It's just a matter of time. U?d are going to get squeezed by the US credit crunch and will nned to take the cash from whoever can offer most - Chel$ki, Man-Shiekh-ster City or Real Madrid.


    In that case, Liverpool will have to sell Torres and Gerrard, Villa will have to sell Barry, Young, Agbonlahor and others will be affected.

    They have American owners with interests elsewhere, and if you're thinking that because AIG where bailed out the other day then I wouldnt think Utd would worry too much, a team as big as that will find another sponsor pretty quickly.

    And the credit crunch isn't just in America, just ask the people here getting compulsory redundancies.

    But its hard to deny Ronaldo wont be on his way soon, though I think Real Madrid is the only option, as much as I dont like him I think he'd turn down the ridiculous wages at City for the obscene wages of Madrid. And also Madrid has much more chance of winning big trophies than City will.

  • Comment number 66.

    United Caught us off guard last season due to our management and the confusion with Jose's Departure. But not this season, no. Look out United because this is our season to get the Treble. Chelsea 4 eva!!

  • Comment number 67.

    what's all this bickering about Utd losing tomorrow. You Utd fans of little faith, don't panic tomorrow is our day of reckoning. Phil i'm curious as you are, when did Sir Alex Ferguson ever resort to panic measures prior to Quieroz's arrival. As you rightfully said He was already iconic.Need i say this Quieroz failed SA, Real Madrid...., and only managed to find his niche under Sir Alex. I'm still a bit sceptical about Quieroz's success chances as the Portuguese manager. I take these remarks as a clear disrespect of Ferguson's second to none resume.

    Unless backed by sufficient fact instances these outrageous claims(or "flaws") must never be heard from a Man Utd supporter.

  • Comment number 68.

    As for Ronaldo starting, i wish He doesnot start because He might end up suffering the same fate as Carrick. There is no need to rush players. The Chelsea game is not a final anyway. Regrouping will not take place if players keep getting injured week in week out. so i hope Ferguson doesn't bow to the temptation of starting him.

  • Comment number 69.

    On the lighter side "Last week Man Utd overstated it's cash at hand for the breakfast 'Liver..' and hence suffered the consequences but this time around Chelsea buns are just too cheap. No need for any Budget because we are destined to devour some chelsea "buns" tomorrow ." United for life.

  • Comment number 70.

    Still not 2pm yet? YAWN! Never anticipated a game with great delight without being frantic as a chelsea fan for a very long time. Pls wake me when its 2.

  • Comment number 71.

    Chelsea's home run has to end sometime, and as in November 2005 - when the Mancs ended Mourinho's 40-game run, whilst trailing in the league - I think Fergie's squad have a point to prove.

    As with that game, I suspect most Liverpool and Arsenal fans will become temporary Man U supporters for a Sunday afternoon, which is always funny...

  • Comment number 72.

    does anyone genuinely like alex ferguson? apart from man united fans that is.
    Chelsea are the more likely team for today but united could snatch a draw. I mean ronaldo is not exactly 100% and van der Sar is playing awful. Sorry united i think this one's ours.

  • Comment number 73.

    Please wake me up when the game is over. I have never known such hype ...

  • Comment number 74.

    Phil, and Ferguson is not combustible?

  • Comment number 75.

    It was a draw, and just a game of football, not a battle. A few minutes into it, the match commentator said 'two tribes go to war' and spent much of the game looking for players who were 'having a good go at each other'. And then of course, as soon as one of them misbehaved, he was all over them like a preacher on meth.

    You folks in the media need to show a little more responsibility and restraint. These are not battles, clashes, wars, or campaigns - they are games of football, and there are lovers of the game, like me, who enjoy it nomatter who is playing.

    If you expect footballers, managers and referees to act professionally, and supporters to behave responsibly, then you should also do so yourselves.


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