TWO new managers, an old rivalry – but three crucial points up for grabs.
Erik ten Hag and Graham Potter are just getting their feet under the table at their respective offices in Carrington and Cobham.
But they will know all about the history of this famous duel – and how important a win at the end of the season could be when both men are desperate for a place in the top four.
For Potter at Chelsea, this is his toughest test yet.
He edged out Crystal Palace, Wolves and Aston Villa but Brentford held on to a 0-0 midweek as his Blues held on in fourth place.
Chelsea face only their second Big Six opponent of the season and go into tonight’s showdown at Stamford Bridge with Manchester United on a scorching record as United seek a fourth win of the season against the established elite.
The Londoners have not won any of their last NINE Premier League games against the Red Devils, a streak dating back to November 2017.
But the safe bet is on a tie.
This clash has produced a record 25 draws – the most in Premier League history – including the last four and six of the last eight.
But if anyone knows how to beat this United side, it’s Potter.
He took his then-Brighton side to Old Trafford on the opening day of the season and returned to the south coast with a 2-1 win and United in turmoil.
Thomas Frank and Brentford made things much worse the following week before Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City scored the neighbors for a six.
Should Potter achieve a rare victory for Chelsea, he would be only the second manager in history, after Andy Aitken in 1908-09 with Middlesbrough and Leicester, to defeat the Red Devils with two different teams in a single league campaign.
Jadon Sancho and Jorginho were on the scoresheet in that tie last November before Cristiano Ronaldo ruled out Marcos Alonso’s opener at Old Trafford in April.
But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has no chance of repeating the trick today.
Ten Hag has chosen to be without Ronaldo – not that he will be missed much – as he slaughters his authority in the wake of the Tottenham debacle.
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The irritated Portuguese’s recent outburst of anger, which saw him refuse to come on as a substitute and then leave the stadium before full-time, has earned him a training spot for himself, a one-game ban from his boss and £720,000 worse off .
But that should be Marcus Rashford again to lead – with United certainly unchanged from their convincing display against Spurs.
Rashford is two goals away from his 100th for United in all competitions, with five against Chelsea – including the spectacular free-kick in 2019 that came a week before Ten Hag’s only visit to Stamford Bridge, a chaotic 4-4 draw for nine man Ajax in the Champions League.
In contrast, Raheem Sterling has NEVER found the net in his 23 games against United, the club he has faced most of his career, but is hoping his luck will change in his first outing against them for Chelsea.
The pair, who are battling for England’s left winger position next month, know an impressive performance today could boost their World Cup chances.
Potter beat Ten Hag on opening day with his unconventional 3-3-3-1 formation.
And in his first few weeks at Chelsea, he’s proven he’s not afraid to change form to get the best results, even adjusting his side’s line-up within games.
This makes it difficult for Ten Hag and his team of coaches and analysts to fully prepare for tonight’s game.
Will it be a back three or a back four? Ben Chilwell or Marc Cucurella? Where could Ruben Loftus-Cheek play? How is the midfield set up? Who Leads the Line?
One thing is certain and that is that Kepa Arrizabalaga will keep his place in goal after keeping five straight clean sheets.
And he needs to be back in top form when the Red Arrows of Manchester travel to west London.
The team that lost to Potter’s Brighton managed five shots on target.
But after Rashford got back to form, £85.5million man Antony ran on the floor and his Brazilian newcomer Casemiro and even Fred are goals, Ten Hag’s men have netted 77 tries in their last three games – but with 25 hits and three goals.
With six wins and 15 goals each this season, Chelsea and United are pretty much even.
In fact, only one point separates the two clubs, who go into the weekend fourth and fifth respectively.
Potter and Ten Hag know who wins ends the weekend on Champions League spots – and can keep the pressure on north Londoners Arsenal and Tottenham, who play tomorrow.
They may not be fighting for the title like they did in the noughties, but Chelsea and Manchester United just don’t like each other and a meaningful performance and a positive result can make an important mark in the early stages of their new era.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6501889/chelsea-man-utd-potter-ten-hag-rivalry/ Chelsea vs Man Utd: Potter and Ten Hag see victory in Champions League race with old rivalry revived in new eras