Saturday, 12:45 UK time, Old Trafford, Manchester – United and Chelsea clash as they open the 33rd game-week of the Premiership this season. The red devils are on top with 72 points, gunning for their fourth consecutive title and 19th overall. Chelsea, one point behind United, are looking for their first league title since 2006 and chase the shadow of Jose Mourinho’s back to back wins away. THE match of the season – Who will win, and how –
Neville & Drogba

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Why Manchester United will win –

Alex Ferguson

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Alex Ferguson – He finds a way to win. He’s the greatest manager of all time for a reason, and that’s because he brings his players to their best form on the right time of the season, which is now, April-May. With or without Wayne Rooney, Ferguson usually comes up with the answers, whether it’s tactically or motivational/psychologically, with his pre-game comments in the press and to his players, behind closed doors. His rival, Ancelotti, despite staying with AC Milan for quite a while, won only one league title with the Rossoneri. Big edge for United on the sidelines. Call it luck (the number of own goals United benefit from), call it goddamn magic, he finds a way to come out on top almost every time.

Old Trafford

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Old Trafford – The biggest stadium in the Premiership grants United, along with Chelsea, the best home record in the league – 14 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss. Chelsea tend to lose when they take their trip to the northwest (painful 3-0 last season). United tend to get a lot of calls going their way, including dubious penalties and refs suddenly get trigger happy fingers when it comes to sending off visitors. It may not make United the most popular team among other managers and fans, but the effect their stadium has on the opposition and the referees has been an important part of their success in the last 18 years. Chelsea haven’t won at Old Trafford since the 2004-2005 season and have scored only once in their last four visits to Old Trafford. United have conceded only 9 goals in 16 matches this season at home.

Nani

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Injuries & Defensive shuffling – Ashley Cole is out, Bosingwa is out. Meaning it’ll probably be Yuri Zhirkov on the left and Paulo Ferriera or Ivanovic on the right. In any case, Chelsea won’t be fielding it’s strongest possible defense, especially on the flanks, meaning Nani/Park/Valencia who have been looking very good lately should be able to do some damage from there. The only problem is who’ll be playing striker for United.

Manchester United

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Records are meant to be broken – Fergusons’ tenure at United has been about setting new standards and putting Manchester United at the top of the English game – who would have believed that Liverpool, after capturing it’s 18th league title in 1990, would not win it once in 20 years? Who would have guessed that Manchester United, winning it’s last league title in 1967, would go on to dominate the Premiership, winning 11 league titles in 17 seasons, with two three-peats along the way? Ferguson said way way back his grand intent is to knock Liverpool off their fucking perch, and a win on Saturday will almost guarantee a 19th title and an unprecedented fourth in a row.

Why Chelsea will win –

Wayne Rooney

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No Rooney – Forget whatever advantages Chelsea hold over United. This is the main reason. Manchester United between 2007-2009 were a great team. In 2009-2010, they’re a very good one, with one exceptional player. Alex Ferguson didn’t replace Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s practically impossible, even if you have 80 million euros in your pockets to burn. Instead, he gave Rooney the keys to the attack and has gotten a fantastic production – 34 goals in all competitions and a league leading 26 in 29 games. Now he’s out, and United don’t have too much firepower without him. I won’t say mediocre, but they seem to be at a disadvantage against Chelsea without him.

Didier Drogba

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Drogba & More – Look at the scoring charts, and you’ll see that Drogba is having just as good a season as Rooney, and he missed about a month playing with the Ivory Coast in the ACN. Stat line – 32 goals in all competitions, including 24 league goals in 26 matches. He is having a career year and with Rooney out for about a month, he just might win the scoring title and just might win it for Chelsea on Saturday. It’s not just Drogba – Chelsea are the best scoring team in the Premiership and are coming off a 7-1 demolition of Aston Villa with Lampard scoring four and a 5-0 win over Pompy. More to come at Old Trafford?

Frank Lampard

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Superior Midfield – United played with Scholes, Fletcher and Carrick in the center with Park coming in to help from the wing. As a defensive unit, it works pretty well. As an attacking, creative unit, you can do better, especially when your super striker is out. Chelsea will probably continue with their 4-3-3, with Lampard-Mikel-Deco in the middle. Sounds a bit better, right? Plus, they have Michael Ballack as well as an option to start with or come off the bench.

Post Champions League Syndrome – Chelsea have only the title to focus on, getting knocked out by Inter in the previous stage of the champions league. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’d love to be there instead of the special one, but a little bit of rest does a world of good when running for a title. United are back from Munich all scratched and bruised. United’s record after European nights is also encouraging for Chelsea – four losses in the eight matches following European encounters (Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton, Aston Villa), one draw, three wins. It is worth mentioning that only one of these losses came at Old Trafford, but still, Manchester United are vulnerable this season, especially after matches like the one they had on Tuesday.

Final Outcome – In a game like this you could go either way, but Chelsea need the win more badly. Rooney’s absence will be a huge factor and I can’t put my money on United, despite them being United and Ferguson and Old Trafford and everything. A draw would suit the Red Devils, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does end 1-1. Still, Chelsea do have a slight edge going into this game.