For the last 10 years, whenever anyone discussed the Man United job post Sir Alex Ferguson, there were always 2 ways to look at it. One, it was impossible to surpass Ferguson, and anyone succeeding him would need to be extremely strong and would be permanently compared to Ferguson, a comparison in which he would always come out behind. He would struggle to earn the respect of players and supporters, and would inevitably oversee United’s downfall. The other, it was the biggest job in the world, with wonderful facilities, amazing players who have the best mentality in world football and a club genuinely believing in stability, continuity and with a belief in long-term planning. So far David Moyes has experienced more of one than of two. This isn't really his fault- he’s been approachable, honest and has respected the clubs traditions. However, he’s had a nightmare summer, with no major signings despite public chases for Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, and the constant speculation about Wayne Rooney. Moyes biggest problem has been the fact that he’s simply not Ferguson. Under Ferguson, United were considered top dogs. No one took on him, and any criticism or talk of crisis would be ridiculed simply because there was a belief that everything would be just fine. Now, they seem weak, vulnerable and the media will take every opportunity to take on the Champions. It’s highly unlikely Roberto Martinez would publically criticize United with Ferguson in charge, or Jose Mourinho be open about wanting Rooney. Moyes cannot allow himself to be bullied by Mourinho, who seems to also have that sense of security around him. When United face Chelsea tomorrow, they’re underdogs; Chelsea are now considered favourites for the title.
It’s highly unfair on Moyes, but defeat would mean even this early United would be 6 points behind Chelsea, and confidence will quickly erode. There is genuine fear around the club that with Mourinho back and City spending heavily, they’re in trouble. Simply put, defeat tomorrow is unacceptable. Moyes will most likely be a bit pragmatic early on in his reign, with difficult fixtures early on and a need to obtain results early. He knows a draw would be a good result, and if United can get through the first 5 games relatively unscathed, then they have a run of easy fixtures for Moyes to really begin building momentum. I expect Welbeck and van Persie to start, but would think Moyes may look at the last few games between the clubs and decide to play Phil Jones in midfield to support Carrick against Mata and Oscar. Without Rene Meulensteen, United could have a pretty different tactical plan tomorrow. Antonio Valencia has a great record against Ashley Cole and should start, while it would make sense to play Kagawa on the left, allowing an extra midfielder against the Blues while allowing Ivanovic, not the best right back on the ball, to be the only free man in the game. Mourinho should consider starting without John Terry or Frank Lampard as neither has the legs to play in such a high-tempo game. Mourinho can also consider using Andre Schurrle’s pace against Patrice Evra, but it’s difficult to see who would be dropped. I expect him to ask his team to go out and take on United, trying to get an early advantage in the game.