Key battles at Old Trafford

Posted by Mark Payne

Moyes versus Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has not been shy in trying to stir the pot before the visit to Old Trafford on Monday night. He has spent this week slowly turning up the volume on Wayne Rooney and reached a cacophony on Saturday when he suggested that United should sell the striker. For somebody who claims to have delayed another bid until after the match out of respect, he has managed to discuss Rooney in public, with the press, four times this week. That is pretty good work.

For his part, Manchester United manager David Moyes has played it cool. The Scot has appeared completely unruffled in his first couple of months at the club. This period of time is only a small sample, but it is refreshing that he has not overreacted to frustrations in the transfer market, nor did he overcelebrate last week's victory over Swansea.

- Brewin: Mourinho's chance to prove a point
- Delaney: Mourinho the star in OT showdown
- Worrall: Chelsea all set to test United's worth


In terms of team selection, Mourinho may keep Juan Mata on the bench, partly because of United's reported interest in him and partly because Chelsea are playing Bayern Munich in midweek. In truth, Mourinho will be desperate to beat Pep Guardiola's Bayern and may settle for a draw at Old Trafford.

Moyes will be tempted to start Shinji Kagawa but may opt for experience and hand Ryan Giggs a starting berth instead. If Chelsea target Rooney starts, Moyes will need to be 100 percent about the striker's state of mind. With the added pressure of this being his first league match at Old Trafford as United manager, he will feel a responsibility to attack.

RVP versus JT
For all the talk of Rooney, it is Robin van Persie who has been delivering the goods at United for the past year. If Chelsea have designs on winning this contest, then they must somehow shackle the Dutchman. John Terry will no doubt wade in with a few physical challenges early on and is likely to pay close attention all evening.

However, van Persie is just as happy loitering on the edge of the box and shooting from range as he is closer to goal. The more mobile Danny Welbeck will scheme through the 18-yard box and look for loose chances. Welbeck's success, to an extent, will depend on how well RVP distracts Terry and his defensive partner Gary Cahill. "His hold-up play and movement in the box is sensational," said Moyes about van Persie this week. This is a game in which RVP will need to truly lead the line.

Jones versus Hazard
Much will hinge on how United's back line handles Chelsea's quick-footed trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Mata. Mourinho will likely start only two of those, and Moyes will be hoping that United's declared interest in Mata keeps the Spaniard on the bench.

As such, Eden Hazard can be expected to shoulder much of the creative burden from an attacking Chelsea midfield. Phil Jones is standing in for the injured Rafael at right-back and must be careful not to get pulled out of position. Jones has been deployed all over the park during his time at United, but against Chelsea he will need to keep his positional discipline.

If Hazard is able to draw him inside, then Ashley Cole will be waiting behind to overlap and launch dangerous attacks down the flank and into the box. Chelsea will look to disrupt United's defensive shape as much as possible, and Hazard will be central to those attempts.

Vidic versus Torres
Nemanja Vidic is United's last line and a crunching tackler. Not many people can say they've had the better of the Serbian centre-half, but Fernando Torres has certainly given him a torrid time in the past, during his Liverpool days. Despite last season's moderate renaissance, we haven't seen the 2010 vintage of Torres for a long time now. It would be a surprise to see him get the better of Vidic.

However, if Chelsea play quickly and direct, and Torres is on form, Vidic would be wise to stay nice and tight and not allow Torres to wriggle away and shoot quickly.

Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne

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