Sunday, March 18, 2018

Manchester United and Chelsea set for tactical battle

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 24 Feb 2018

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There was a time I used to get excited by two big teams going head-to-head. However, some of the big Premier League games now leave me cold. Defensive tactics can spoil certain games like Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea.

Both teams have tremendous attacking talent at their disposal. However, recent games between these two have been tactical battles, rather than great entertainment. They may be great for students of the games or insomniacs, but not for me. Call me crazy, but I prefer goalmouth action to complete and utter nothingness in a game.

Jose Mourinho v Antonio Conte

United boss Jose Mourinho and Chelsea chief Antonio Conte have been involved in a war of the words for the past few months. Both have moved to calm things down, as the mind games are doing neither any favours.

Both bosses have very good tactical acumen and the managerial ability to win big games. Mourinho usually does that by boring everybody to death, while Conte’s approach to big games is slightly less dull.

Conte can set his team up to play a defensive style, but still, maintain a threat on the break. This is something that Mourinho has not quite mastered at United just yet. The Red Devils players just cannot seem to manage it.

I hope attacking players will be let off the leash

If this game were at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho would park the bus and hope for the best. However, with the game being at Old Trafford, Mourinho has to play a more pro-active style of play.

Manchester United fans expect their team to attack at home, no matter who they are playing against. Chelsea arrive in Manchester on the back of a mixed set of results, so they are not exactly brimming with confidence.

United can afford to play on the front foot. The likes of Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Willian do present an attacking danger at the other end of the pitch. However, United have a good defensive record on home soil in the league.

United have bags of attacking talent in Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and even Paul Pogba coming from a deeper position.

If they want to, the Red Devils can take the game to the visitors and with a bit of bravery pick up maximum points. However, I get the feeling that Mourinho will again take a cautious approach to the game.

I hope I am wrong for the sake of the millions of people watching the game. I would like to see both teams attempt to play football. However, these games often produce the worse stalemates.

Manchester United favourites to win the game

This game could have a massive effect on the race for the top-four places. The Red Devils have just a three-point lead after the fourth-place visitors. Chelsea are also just a point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham, who could have leapfrogged in the table by kick-off, as the team from north London face Crystal Palace in Sunday’s early kick-off.

Neither team can afford to lose this game.United heads into the clash as 13/10 favourites to pick up three points, but in truth, this could be a very close encounter. Five of the last six meetings of these two sides have produced under 2.5 goals, which illustrates just how tactical and defensive these games can be.

If both bosses go into this game not wanting to lose, then it may not be a game for fans of free-flowing, attacking football. However, tactical experts may enjoy it, as Conte v Mourinho on paper looks to be a fascinating battle of wits between two of the best tacticians in the top-flight.

I am football Neanderthal though who loves goals and goalmouth action. Shame on me, but I not sure I am going to enjoy Sunday’s game.

Will Sunday’s game produce a Premier League classic?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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