Manchester United prepare to face Chelsea

07 May 2011 05:03
ShareWhile Sir Alex Ferguson says he intends to quiz Jose Mourinho on how best to prepare for an encounter with Barcelona, it is hard to imagine Carlo Ancelotti contacting Roberto  di Matteo to have a similar conversation about meeting Manchester United at Old Trafford.

But Di Matteo remains the only manager to have returned from there in the Barclays Premier League this season without sporting the scars of defeat.

On October 16 last year, Di Matteo guided a West Bromwich Albion side now under the management of Roy Hodgson to an impressive 2-2 draw, and it stands as the one blip on an otherwise perfect home record for United. 

Shock troops: West Brom are the only side to have taken even a point from Old Trafford

Ferguson is obviously aware that Chelsea won at Old Trafford last season in a game he considered decisive in that championship campaign. It is why he took such a gamble in resting so many players for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Schalke on Wednesday.

But ahead of a game that will almost certainly determine whether it is United or Chelsea who emerge as the winners of this title race, the manager draws great confidence from his side's home form.

'Anybody coming to Old Trafford must think they are going to have a hard game anyway,' Ferguson said yesterday. 'But I am pleased to say our home form has been very good.

'I can't actually explain why but when you see our away record which has been, how would you put it, ordinary the realisation of that away record has made us really step up to the mark at home.

'Some of the performances have been absolutely terrific. We've still had criticism but we've scored more goals than anyone. We must be doing something right. Our home record is fantastic, probably the best in Europe. It has to be on Sunday because it's a big game.'

Hot shot: Javier Hernandez has enjoyed an impressive first season in the Premier League

Manchester United v Chelsea

His point about the goals is a valid one. They have scored 43 in the league at Old Trafford this season, conceding only nine.

But the question now facing Ferguson, one that might yet give him another sleepless night, is how ambitious he is when it comes to picking his next team. Both managers face a similar situation: whether to go with their two principal strikers or just one. In Ancelotti's case he must decide whether to select both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres or choose between them. Ferguson must decide on Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez or just Rooney.

In the past, Ferguson has approached such games with a touch of caution, deploying Rooney at the point of his attack. But Hernandez has become hard to ignore and his performances alongside Rooney in the two legs of that Champions League quarter-final victory over Chelsea will surely convince Ferguson to pick both again.

'In the Champions League games, which we did very well in, we picked a team that was suited to the occasion,' he said. 'With the squad I have got you can make one or two small changes of personnel without making much of a difference.

'In the last game (against Chelsea) we left (Antonio) Valencia out, played Park Ji-sung on the right and Nani on the left. That worked for us, particularly Park's form that night, with Rooney off the front. I can change that. There's a chance I will make one or two changes because it's different to the Champions League game.'

Part of the problem is not being able toguess what  Ancelotti will do. 'To be honest I have no idea,' said Ferguson. 'I was at the game last week and I couldn't get any clues fromthat. Drogba played the whole game so I expect him to definitely play. It started off with Drogba wide right and then Torres went wide right, so whether they start the two or not is difficult to say.'But no matter what they do, we have the players to handle it.'

In control: Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) could lead United to a league and Champions League double

His team also have a certain versatility. If Ancelotti goes 4-3-3, United can match them by simply pushing Rooney slightly wide and playing Hernandez through the middle.

But Ferguson was reluctant to go into too much detail, with what little co-operation he was displaying disappearing the moment someone likened his side to Devon Loch for allowing a one-time 18-point lead over Chelsea it was effectively that at half-time when the two teams met at Stamford Bridge on March 1 to drop to three.

To say Ferguson's mood changed would be something of an understatement. 'I don't know how many points we were infront of Chelsea at any given time,' he said.

Crucial: Didier Drogba's goal helped Chelsea beat United last season

'It doesn't matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago or four years ago. We have three games left, three points ahead, same goal difference, playing at home, two home games and one away. That's where we are. Nothing can change it.

'But everyone is aware of the magnitude of Sunday's game, and everyone knows that if we win we should win the league. Everyone also knows we won't be going for a draw. Everyone knows that.

Chelsea know that. Our fans know that. Everyone sitting in here knows that.'

And everyone is now seriously looking forward to Sunday.

 Old Trafford showdown is our cup final, insists Chelsea boss AncelottiBring it on! Fired-up Fergie ready for Chelsea in Sunday's showdownAll the latest Chelsea news, features and opinionAll the latest Manchester United news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Didier Drogba, Park Ji-sung, Roy Hodgson, Fernando Torres, Jose Mourinho, Nani, Carlo Ancelotti Places: Barcelona, Europe

Source: Daily_Mail