The worst case scenario was confirmed on Thursday after Wayne Rooney was ruled out for Sunday’s acclaimed ‘title decider’, sense the sarcasm? Chelsea fans will receive the news warmly, of course no-one wants to see a player of any calibre injured yet alone Rooney however the injury could be crucial to Chelsea’s Premier League surge. Wednesday in such a manner, made the deal even sweeter when challengers Arsenal, also lost their talismanic figure, Cesc Fabregas.
The Champions League is always tolling on its entrants however losing your key player not only puts your Champions League future in doubt but has repercussions on all competitions. Chelsea may therefore feel their Champions League exit has served them a favour to the best degree that a Champions League exit can. Regardless of an injury to Rooney, Chelsea must maintain focus and nullify United’s alternative threats which largely amass from the wings. Dimitar Berbatov has received mixed reviews since his arrival to both the Premier League and the current champions. His flair and nonchalant flicks are spectacular when well executed, however his lackadaisical footballing philosophy of not retrieving lost balls and giving chase to long balls provokes the expected flak.
Manchester United are likely to field Berbatov as a lone striker with in form wingers Nani and Antonio Valencia occupying the wings. However Alex Ferguson usually favours Park Ji Sung in these top four clashes, the Korean’s work ethic is admirable and his relentless attributes have frequently seen him reward his manager with a goal or two. Nani has already shown his abilities against top opposition this season with his pace causing panic in the Arsenal defence in a recent encounter. United’s speed and perfectly powerful deliveries from wide have seen the Red Devil’s profit with eleven own goals this season. Chelsea therefore with their understudy wing-backs in place maybe an area specifically targeted by United.
Ancelotti has warned his squad to protect against consistency and ensured that Rooney’s injury will not affect the mindset of his players. Ancelotti said: “Sometimes a team can give more than 100% when a very important player is out.” The Italian tactician pursued to discuss the wealth of experience of United and the fact that they have overcome injuries throughout their reign as Champions. United certainly have a platform to build from and even without Rooney the threat possessed by United is arguably just as strong. A first choice back-line available to Sir Alex is disputably just as essential as the English centre-forward is to their success. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand should partner the backline comprised of Patrice Evra and either Rafael da Silva or the experience of veteran Gary Neville.
Chelsea have had a week to prepare both physically and mentally after their 7-1 mauling of Aston Villa. The side will look to regain momentum from that match and the five goals that fell before it. Didier Drogba is a doubt for the tie at Old Trafford but is likely to recover from a niggle, his presence is vital and although his physical threat is often well counteracted by Vidic and Ferdinand his pace can cause problems. The Ivorian is the pin point of all Chelsea attacks this season and his influence on the side is critical to Chelsea in particular in these big games. A win at Old Trafford is still a monumental task and had Chelsea fail in their attempts they will struggle to overcome their Manchester opponents in the title race. However if Chelsea can get a result here, they will eclipse the Reds and reach the summit of Premier League football, with an FA Cup tie the following week this is a crucial period in Ancelotti’s aims of achieving the double in his first year in English football.