Date:Saturday November 25 2006
Here we are, the big blue beast has arrived, aiming to deal a severe blow to our title aspirations. This should be the game of the season - but there are several reasons why it won't be.
Firstly, both teams have a lot to lose, therefore we cannot expect them to give a fighting, dogged, tenacious performance like United had done in last season's correspondent fixture. It's more likely we'll see two teams trying to avoid defeat than trying to win.
If United lose, their title charge could be easily over. If we are found wanting at home against Arsenal and Chelsea than we cannot dream of winning the league. If Chelsea lose, they'll be six points adrift going into the Christmas period, and for once they'de be in uncharted territory: trailing the pacesetters, rather than setting the pace themselves.
So many things have been written about this game, I can hardly conjure up anything new. There's one thing, though, that had not been considered yet as most pundits are now sure this season's Premiership would be a two-horse race. I'm not convinced but if United won, Chelsea would surely not walk away with it again. If the Vlues won this one, they could be well ahead come Christmas.
I think we should attack them. Ronaldo and Giggs should aim to torture Cashley and the Cannibal or whoever Mourinho would play at right-back. United must profit from their obvious lack of width, otherwise the game is a foregone conclusion. Remember, there's no Roy Keane-controversy around to fire up the lads this time. 'Only' points are at stake - and of course, confidence and belief.
Sir Alex Ferguson has no idea what Chelsea would do after getting six points behind United - but offered some ideas ahead of the game.
'Who is to say what their reaction might be,' said Ferguson.
'For all I know, they might go out and buy another six players.
'What we have to do is get ourselves into a position where we can find out what happens.
'You cannot hide the fact this is a great opportunity for us.
'Over the last two years, Chelsea have always been nine or 10 points ahead, which has made it very difficult for us to peg them back.
'This year we have got out of the blocks. For the first time, we are in front and have the prospect of us going six points clear, which would have them chasing us rather than the other way round.'
Jose Mourinho has proved he failed to watch our game against Portsmouth as he has raised some points about the alleged preferential treatment we receive from referees. He surely missed his side's win over Blackburn, for instance...
'We don't want refs to treat us like they treated United when Tottenham's Pedro Mendes had a shot which was two metres over the line and nobody saw it,' the Portuguese said, in reference to an incident two seasons ago.
'We don't want to be given penalties like United had in the first minute against Portsmouth to score as soon as the game had started.
'We just want something that has always been abundant in the English game - fair play and dignity.'
Not a chance, Jose, not a chance. That's not your style. But once again, you gave me something to laugh about, so thank you very much.
Apart from long-term absentees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Park Ji-sung, everyone is fit and ready to take on the champions. Rio Ferdinand was a slight doubt but he has recovered.
United's French striker will be determined to make amends after two crucial misses denied the Reds a point at Celtic in midweek. Hopefully he'll be able to demoralize Chelsea's defenders.
Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba have recovered from the minor injuries they have sustained at Werder and are likely to be included in the starting line-up. Ricardo Carvalho is fit again and should reclaim his place alongside John Terry in the heart of Chelsea's defence, with Boulahrouz switched to right-back or banished to the bench.
Who else? Joint top scorer with that lanky Nigerian, in the form of his life - Vidic and Ferdinand should be up to the job.
Last season's correspondent fixture was also in November: it was Darren Fletcher's finest 90 minutes in a United shirt, he's crowned his display with a header that was never intended to hit the target but it did anyway.
Howard Webb - the 35 year old Yorkshireman is rated one of the best young referees. Hopefully he'll be able to control this game.
I don't dare to do it, please, nooooo... OK, if must. I go for a 1-0 home win.
It's Everton coming to the Theatre of Dreams on Wednesday. We have to beat them whatever happens on Sunday, that's obvious.
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Date:Saturday November 25 2006
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