The State of Play
Manchester United and Chelsea are used to viewing each other as Premier League title rivals, yet they enter Wednesday’s head-to-head clash at Old Trafford as the two biggest current underachievers in English football.
Hosts United – and their boss Erik ten Hag – are back under severe pressure following Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle United at St James’ Park, where the Magpies laid siege to their goal from the first whistle and finally found a way through via Anthony Gordon after the break.
That result leaves the Red Devils five points adrift of the top four and led club legend Gary Neville to say he was “bored” of watching them. Reports then emerged on Monday claiming a significant portion of United’s squad are not behind Ten Hag, which the Dutchman has angrily denied.
Read our other Manchester United news stories here:
Manchester United ban journalists over Erik ten Hag reports
Manchester United ‘not where we want to be’, accepts captain Fernandes
‘We are together’ – Erik ten Hag slams reports of Manchester United unrest
Chelsea have also endured a difficult 2023-24 season to date, but they are looking up after bouncing back from their own chastening defeat at Newcastle by beating Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 on Sunday.
Enzo Fernandez’s first two Premier League goals – coupled with Levi Colwill’s close-range header – were enough for the Blues to edge an entertaining contest despite Conor Gallagher’s red card, moving them within five points of United.
Mauricio Pochettino – a long-term United target during his time with Tottenham – has seen his team earn 10 points from their last five league games after enduring a troubled start to his reign, and he should have a few key players returning to the fold ahead of Wednesday’s match.
The prospect of both United and Chelsea playing Champions League football next season appears extremely remote. On Wednesday, we may just find out which of these fallen giants has the best chance of doing so.
The Premier League’s entertainers 🍿
Chelsea’s last four matches have averaged 5.75 goals! ⚽ pic.twitter.com/LtpWbygqLs
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 3, 2023
Both teams have had several selection issues to contend with lately, and United will again be without Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez for Wednesday’s match. Former Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount is closing in on a return, but he will not be involved on Wednesday.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will have full-backs Reece James and Marc Cucurella back from suspension, though Gallagher faces a ban of his own after picking up two yellow cards against Brighton. Malo Gusto could also return, but Ben Chilwell, Trevoh Chalobah and Carney Chukwuemeka are out.
Pochettino said last week that Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku were both “close” to being available for their competitive debuts for the club, but neither made the squad for the Brighton win. On Tuesday, he confirmed this game will also come too soon for the pair.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 4, 2023
Manchester United: Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Amrabat; Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford; Hojlund.
Chelsea: Sanchez; James, Silva, Badiashile, Colwill; Caicedo, Fernandez; Sterling, Palmer, Mudryk; Jackson.
What they Said
Ten Hag on the mood in the United camp:
“Everyone is disappointed when you have the result at Galatasaray and then the performance and result in Newcastle, but if you go to Newcastle… we are not the only team who is losing there.
“I think in their home record, they won every game apart from Liverpool. Apart from that, everyone is losing there but we wanted to win there. We gave everything that was in our power but our performance definitely wasn’t good enough.”
On reports of unrest in the dressing room:
“I listen always to my players and I always give them opportunities. If the players have a different opinion, of course, I will listen. But they haven’t told me.
“The majority want to play like this; proactive, dynamic, brave. That is what they want. You can see the players are behind it because of the performances against Everton and Galatasaray, and we are improving.”
Pochettino on Chelsea’s win over Brighton:
“When you analyse that game you feel proud. The way we started the first half against a very good team, we tried to change our feelings after Newcastle. It was a very tough game for us, not only because it was Brighton.
“It’s about all being together, the desire to belong to the club, and this group of players is fighting together. If we feel like this we can evolve and develop in any type of way.”
When and How to Watch
The game kicks off at the later-than-usual time of 20:15 in the UK on Wednesday evening, and like the rest of the Premier League’s set of midweek fixtures, will be shown live by Amazon Prime in the UK.
Across all competitions, five of the last six meetings between United and Chelsea have finished level, though the Red Devils did rout Frank Lampard’s Blues 4-1 in this exact fixture back in May.
However, United approach this clash in a much worse place, while Chelsea are beginning to welcome key players back and have produced a few promising attacking performances of late. The Blues remain fragile, though, so an entertaining 2-2 draw could be on the cards, further frustrating both teams’ attempts to climb the table.
“I am tired of my own club.”
Gary Neville says he has become bored of watching Manchester United following their poor performances in recent months 🔴🔊 pic.twitter.com/pbvR0zLf0R
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 4, 2023