Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:
(1) It’s time for Manchester United to face a quote-unquote real opponent again. The Reds are headed to London to face fifth-place Chelsea following an awful to watch 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday.
(2) Despite the match not providing the greatest advertisement of the sport to newcomers, a 0-0 draw was a perfect result for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as his team rode its 4-0 aggregate lead into the next round of the league where it will face AC Milan. The match against Milan this early in the tournament (round of 16) might be disappointing to neutrals since the second-place teams in both the Premier League and Serie A would’ve made for an exciting Final. Will the match meet the same levels as the two clubs’ famous meetings in the Champions League earlier this millennium? We shan’t wait long to find out.
(3) What can we expect from this Chelsea team? We thought they’d ship goals in the October match-up when P.E. teacher Frank Lampard was on the touchline. Instead, we watched a 0-0 draw as both teams stared each other down hoping not to get caught by the other team on the break. Now, we have to face them with Thomas Tuchel am Steur.
(4) Chelsea, under Tuchel, haven’t scored a lot of goals, but they also have barely conceded any goals. In eight matches, the team has six clean sheets along with 10 goals scored and only two conceded. We mused on The Busby Babe podcast over what this match might look like, and, despite the managerial change, we’re expecting a relatively similar result to the October match — likely a draw while neither team musters more than one or two goals scored.
New episode of The Busby Babe Podcast:@Colintheshots95, Matt, @NathanIsRed, and @pkwestel discuss Manchester United’s recent fixtures, the return of Daniel James, the upcoming Chelsea match, and the many sounds of Colin’s back yard #MUFC https://t.co/YWp869hNWe— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) February 25, 2021
(5) In the lead-up to the match, Tuchel’s press conference yielded that a single player, Thiago Silva, would miss the match as he recovers from the injury suffered during the Tottenham match. Otherwise, the German manager has quite a few expensive attacking options at his disposal.
(6) Of course, this is not the first time Manchester United faced Tuchel this season as he managed PSG during the group stage of the Champions League when the two clubs split their matchup. Like during the lead-up to those matches, we again have to talk about perhaps the most famous win in Solskjaer’s managerial career: The Miracle in Paris. However, this time it’s not for banter purposes but because Tuchel addressed the match during an interview when he revealed that the upset United pulled off weighed heavily on him.
“I can be very honest, after that match I was two days in a very dark place and I can tell you I was not able to speak to anybody and to think about anything else than this defeat.
“That maybe was the worst defeat that I experienced because it came from nowhere. It was, in a way, in the circumstances that it arrived. I was for two days in a dark place for a coach to be at.”
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has reflected on the "dark place" a defeat to Manchester United put him in during his time in charge of PSG.— Sky Sports (@SkySports) February 27, 2021
(7) United has a few more injuries to worry about than Chelsea. Solskjaer revealed that Donny van de Beek is likely to be available for the match, however, in-form Daniel James may be a matchday decision. Furthermore, Edinson Cavani — who we were hopeful would be back for this match — is not likely to make the 18 while Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, and Juan Mata are definitely out.
(8) Harry Maguire got a surprising rest day during the midweek match. Now, the skipper’s batteries are recharged and he wants to deliver Tuchel the first loss of his Chelsea career.
“Obviously, Chelsea’s going to be a tough game but we went there last year and won and we’ll be looking to do that again.
“They’re keeping their position very nicely and build up really well and [are] not conceding many goals, so it’s a good start [for them]. We’re hoping to spoil that.”
(9) In Tom Britten’s most recent Five Things We Want, one thing likely to come to fruition is “the new United Trinity” starting against Chelsea. Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford have all enjoyed some respite despite the midweek match which will help Solskjaer plot to attack the newly discovered Chelsea defense. Fernandes is arguably the best player in the league while Rashford — despite his inconsistencies in finishing — is still United's most reliable player on the forward line. Greenwood has looked more lively on the right-wing in recent weeks and the lad could be due for a big left-footed strike this weekend.
“The new United Trinity, erect the statue now. United’s optimal attacking trio behind the striker, all in their current best positions, and all given pockets of recuperation recently. Mouthwatering. United, though, have lacked goals in big games and Chelsea’s recent defensive record intensifies the challenge.”
Five things we want from Chelsea vs. Manchester United https://t.co/u3MxysIbxP— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) February 26, 2021
(10) What to do about Anthony Martial? This season has been the valley to last season’s peak for Martial FC. We watched the striker blow up last season, but he has been on a milk carton ever since Erik Lamela’s shithousery in the Tottenham match. However, the injury bug hasn’t bit United that badly when it comes to the attacking side of the pitch and Solskjaer reiterated that Martial is doing the right things in training to keep getting him into matches.
"We encourage him, we coach him and we know he's got the quality and class."— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 26, 2021
Encouraged by Solskajer’s words or not... Is there a person on this planet that needs a goal more than Tony, right now?
(11) C’mon Dr. Marcus Rashford MBE. Give us a repeat of this, Sunday.
(BONUS) Happy (belated) birthday, boss!