Monday Night Football returns with Manchester United taking on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, in what will be a crucial fixture for both teams in their hopes of Champions League qualification next season.
The Red Devils might be six points behind Frank Lampard’s side, but a win, especially with it being held away from home, would show the right intent in clawing their way back into an advantageous position come the end of February.
Chelsea lost this fixture at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season but have since improved dramatically and steadied the ship. While Lampard has brought through a lot of youth players, primarily because of the transfer ban the club were put under, he has managed to compete on most fronts and are still in position for Champions League football.
MALAGA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 10: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United … [+]
Manchester United via Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is on the back foot with the fans and also know his job will be under considerate risk should the club not finish in the top four for another year running. The two new arrivals in Odion Ighalo and Bruno Fernandes should help matters, but Solskjær needs to get a tune out of several under-performing stars.
Typically, Manchester United have performed better when tasked with going up against the ‘big six’ in the country, beating the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, while also drawing to Liverpool. And this time is no different: they must be ready to strike when the opportunity presents itself.
Solskjær has played a defensive approach before in these types of games, focussing primarily on counter-attacking rather than building through the phases. It is unlikely to be much different away at Stamford Bridge, but this is a game in which the Red Devils have to be clinical and have to find a way into the match.
Man United, over the years, have not had the best joy when tasked with recording a result against Chelsea away from home, but they certainly need to go for the win this time round. Performances have been severely lacking over the Christmas and New Year period, and now they are on a catch-up mission to be in the mix for Champions League football.
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 02: Manchester City manager / head coach Pep Guardiola during the Premier … [+]
News of their across-town rivals Manchester City being on the receiving end of a two-year ban from European competition could work in their favour, given the fifth-placed Premier League side will therefore receive qualification to the Champions League.
However, Manchester United certainly do not want to leave it to this and do everything they can instead to qualify on their own accord. Solskjær knows all about Lampard’s side and the way they like to play with quick and high-pressured intensity, which is why the arrival and debut of Ighalo as the number nine could be so important.
The Red Devils have struggled for holding the ball up in advanced areas and finding an exit strategy in certain games, but Ighalo’s physical presence and tenacity will go a long way in relieving some of those pressures. While it will be the Nigerian’s first game back in England for over the three years, fans are expecting a solid performance.
It is coming up to make or break time for Manchester United and they need to step off on the right foot with three points down in West London on Monday night.