Manchester United‘s 35th fixture of the Premier League season, and penultimate match at Old Trafford, comes against Thomas Tuchel‘s Chelsea, kicking off at 7:45pm BST.
As we draw nearer to the end of what feels like a never-ending season, it feels like there is little to play for; a strange feeling when you consider the United of old. Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 loss away to Arsenal has made top four near-impossible, and it would take a significant collapse from both Arsenal and their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur for United to even have a chance, and we’d likely have to win all four of our remaining fixtures.
Despite a couple of blips lately, including being knocked out of the Champions League, our opposition look as though their current position of third place will be the position they end the season in. Timo Werner has been a recent standout performer, with Mason Mount too rediscovering the kind of form that made him so pivotal to Chelsea’s 2020/21 Champions League victory.
In the reverse fixture, United managed an unlikely 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the second of Michael Carrick‘s three games as caretaker manager. The full match report from that game can be read here.
The Opposition: Chelsea
Chelsea’s last five: WWWLW
Chelsea have won four of their last five matches, including a 3-2 win at the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid in which many felt they were unlucky not to progress to the semi finals of the Champions League, despite losing 3-1 at home in the first leg.
Also within this five game stretch was a 2-0 FA Cup semi final victory over Crystal Palace, setting up an EFL Cup final rematch against Liverpool and the chance for Chelsea to pick up some silverware this season. In the league, Chelsea picked up a big late win over West Ham on the weekend and steamrolled Southampton 6-0 shortly over two weeks ago, although did drop points to Arsenal last week in a shock 4-2 loss.
They did also concede to new star-man Chistian Eriksen‘s Brentford at the start of the month in a 4-1 loss, so there is an element of vulnerability about them. Whether or not that Chelsea, or the Chelsea that look like they can go toe to toe with any team on the planet turns up remains to be seen.
United’s last five: DLWLL
Yeah, it looks pretty dire.
United have won just one of their last five in the league – a narrow 3-2 victory against bottom of the league Norwich City – and four of their last fifteen in all competitions in a run that has all but ended their hopes of Champions League football for next season. Many of us simply want the season to finish already and for our newly-announced manager Erik Ten Hag to take over.
Alas, United still have games to play and must put all their effort into ending the season on as strong a note as possible, particularly with the effort they put in. The players will have one eye on the guy taking over, who is known for how tough his style of management is and will not accept any slacking whatsoever.
United’s last two games have come against ‘Big six’ opposition, and have ended in an aggregate score of 7-1 in favour of the other two sides, with a 4-0 loss at Anfield and 3-1 loss at the Emirates. The latter is even more frustrating as the argument could be made that United should’ve won the game; had Bruno Fernandes scored his penalty and a few arguable refree and VAR decisions turned the other way, things may have been different.
But, unlike those two fixtures, this is a home game. The pain of the last two games and a strong home crowd could well work in United’s favour. Can the Red Devils pull off a shock victory and faintly revive their quickly-dying hopes of playing in the Champions League next season, and more importantly can some of these players show the new manager why they deserve a chance under him next season? We’ll find out on Thursday.