Crunch Time For Manchester United

Picture: Reuters/Phil Noble
Danny Welbeck is United's target man with Rooney and van Persie out. Image courtesy of Reuters/Phil Noble

Manchester United's hopes of finishing in a Champions League position could hinge on snatching maximum points off Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday morning. But the Red Devils must undertake that big ask without star striker Wayne Rooney. The veteran is likely to be sidelined by a groin injury for around three weeks.

Last week, the club’s leading goal-scorer this season (9) was sent away for a warm-weather break in Egypt with his family and one of United's fitness experts to help his recovery from an adductor problem. Minus Rooney, United managed a 2-0 win over Swansea City after going down to Tottenham 2-1 . It now seems he will miss the crucial trip to Chelsea and could be out for the rest of the month. That would mean sitting out three EPL games – a massive blow to David Moyes's hopes of clawing back United's deficit of five points on Liverpool in fourth place. It’s a massive setback considering Robin van Persie is still recovering from a thigh problem.

Included in the Blues’ unbeaten run of six matches in the EPL, are three impressive home victories – 2-1 over Liverpool, 1-0 against Swansea City and 2-1 over Crystal Palace. In fact, Jose Mourinho’s third-placed side has won nine of ten at home this season, with a 2-2 draw against West Bromich the other result. Just the same, United has been good on the road, undefeated in its past seven away games - winning the last three. This campaign, the Red Devils have dropped just two away games, winning six and drawing the other two.

Last time these two powerhouses met, neither side could find the net in late August, but prior to that, Chelsea had won three of the previous four encounters. United’s last win at the Bridge was 3-2 in October 2012. Overall, the Red Devils have 63 victories over their London rivals, including 33 on the road. That’s compared to Chelsea’s 46 wins, of which 26 were notched at home. There have been 42 draws.

The Blues have also been boosted by the signing of Nemanja Matic from Benfica. The Serbian midfielder's five-year deal, worth around $38m, is the most expensive outlay by a British club in the transfer window so far. Victory over Man U in front of home fans would help Chelsea’s title aspirations and keep the pressure on leaders Arsenal and second-placed Manchester City.

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