After a week of significant changes at Old Trafford, Manchester United welcomes old foes Chelsea F.C, in what would be an important clash for a Champions League place finish.
German maestro Ralf Rangnick’s appointment has not gone according to plan and now his win percentage in the red half of Manchester sits at a disastrous 40%. Players have to take the majority of the blame here, with multiple players not being in good form this season. Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka just to name a few have drastically seen their form dip in the 2021/22 campaign. But Man United fans have something to cheer for as it was made official that AFC Ajax’s Erik Ten Hag will take over in the 22/23 season. It’s probably the first time that Manchester United have appointed a manager who is at the peak of his powers after failed appointments of Jose Mourinho, Louis Van Gaal & David Moyes.
Chelsea on the other hand have had a disappointing campaign. Once tipped to win the Premier League title, multiple injuries, players missing games due to COVID-19, the Romelu Lukaku interview saga, change in ownership and fixture pile-up have all contributed to the Blues having a season that many fans were not hoping for. Third place finish is theirs for the taking and a win in the FA Cup final could save their season from being a disappointing one.
In this article, we take a look at key battles across the pitch most likely to emerge as the determining factors in the final result.
CRISTIANO RONALDO (MANCHESTER UNITED) vs THIAGO SILVA (CHELSEA)
Two of the greatest players to ever play in their position will lock horns once again, as Cristiano Ronaldo battles the ‘El Monstro’ Thiago Silva. Ronaldo personally has had an amazing campaign. Sixteen goals and three assists at the age of 37 and in the toughest football league in the world is no mean feat. Multiple clutch performances against Arsenal, Tottenham and various UEFA Champions League games are incredible but this Manchester United team is just not suited for him. The team lacks defensive structure and a fixed style of play which could have easily ripped the benefits of having one of the greatest goal scorers of all time instead we are not seeing them perform to the level we saw last season.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s Thiago Silva has continued his brilliant time in England. Only once has Silva played more than 42 games in a season for Paris St. Germain in his eight-year stay and Thiago has already played 42 matches with 7 more matches to go. We have seen multiple goal-line clearances and incredible performances for the player who was bought as a free transfer. His body may not be able to play more than 50 games a season but Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel with shrewd planning has been able to maximize his veteran defender’s output.
It’s going to be a key clash if either side wants to earn three points but the onus will be more on the Portuguese great as his side has lacked the creative spark and the team will depend on his individual genius once more.
JADON SANCHO (MANCHESTER UNITED) vs ANTONIO RUDIGER (CHELSEA)
Brought in to solve the right-wing problem, Ralf Rangnick and even the previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has preferred the €85m summer signing of Jadon Sancho on the left-wing. This is probably due to a dip in the form of Rashford and Martial who left for Seville in the winter transfer window. After a slow start to life in the red half of Manchester, Sancho has been performing on a consistently decent level. Goals & assists numbers are still not about to hit the expectations but the form that this team is going through, it was expected that it will take some time for Sancho to find his best form. Apart from Bruno, Sancho is probably the side’s second-best attacking threat with 9.6 progressive carries and 2.5 dribbles per match.
It was heartbreak for Chelsea fans as Antonio Rudiger was confirmed to leave the club at the end of the season in a post-match press conference by Blues boss Thomas Tuchel. Rudiger, who arrived from AS Roma for £29m, is rumoured to join Spanish giants Real Madrid after five seasons at Stamford Bridge. He is arguably considered to be one of the best defenders in the world right now and will leave a gaping hole on the right-hand side of the back three. After Thomas Tuchel arrival, the German has transformed into a player that most wingers will fear.
Jadon Sancho and Antonio Rudiger’s one on one battle will be one to watch as Sancho did score United’s only goal with three shots taken by the entire squad in the match.
DAVID DE GEA (MANCHESTER UNITED) vs MASON MOUNT (CHELSEA)
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind who Manchester United’s Player of the Season should be. Now into his eleventh season as a Red Devil, De Gea is a modern great with 483 appearances for the club placing him twelfth on all-time matches played. How United are still in the running for a top-six finish? The answer is simple, it’s DAVID DE GEA. The shot-stopper has saved 4.5 goals from an expected 55 goals according to Post-Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed. This season has marked De Gea back into the starting lineup after it was generally expected that Dean Henderson will take over the number one spot in the team as well.
If De Gea is United’s POTY then look no further than Mason Mount who is Chelsea’s best player this season. From a player who had a lot of potentials to do a lot of great things to one who is doing great things, Mount’s career arc has seen him become one of the best players in the three seasons at Stamford Bridge. Mount has the ability to play in any position in the midfield and attack which has seen him play multiple positions this season. But the 21/22 season has seen the Portsmouth born player’s attacking statistics boom with 22 goal contributions across 35 league and Champions League matches.
Mount has scored against De Gea in the FA Cup semi-finals two seasons but the shot-stopper was going through a lean patch of form then, it will be interesting to see how this matchup goes ahead.