Manchester United vs Chelsea: Can Solskjaer and Lampard nostalgia revive glory days?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard will lead two of the most powerful clubs in England when Manchester United hosts Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard will face-off as managers for the first time when Manchester United hosts Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.

Manchester United and Chelsea began last season with Jose Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri as their touchline leaders, but the Premier League giants have traded a weight of experience for conspicuously risky appointments.

It means that Sunday's Premier League match between the teams will see two of the most powerful clubs in England led from pitchside by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard.

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Both have enormous goodwill behind them after stellar playing careers with their respective sides, but they must achieve results as managers this term to maintain such bonhomie.

The opening-weekend meeting of the teams at Old Trafford will provide an early indication of how both are shaping up after challenging close seasons.

Here is a look at how United and Chelsea have reached this point, and in what direction they might be headed.

- Boardroom belief -

United turned to its former striker Solskjaer last December after Mourinho's reign ended in deep disappointment. The team stagnated under a manager whose erstwhile dynamism deserted him in the north-west and Solskjaer was considered a canny interim replacement. His arrival lifted the club from the doldrums, results perked up and a remarkable Champions League comeback to knock out Paris Saint-Germain was followed by a clamour to give the Norwegian the job permanently.

United was swept along by the feel good factor and acceded to those calls, only for results to tail off as performances dipped alarmingly. If United was not back at square one, it was not far off.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the Harry Maguire deal could be done "very soon".   -  Getty Images

 

Solskjaer has been backed this summer to bring in Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, so the team should have a certain freshness, but many underachievers remain. The club - and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward - needs this appointment to work, but the bedding-in period is over and for Solskjaer's United must step up a level.

Lampard is a similar yet delicately different story. Chelsea's record goalscorer left the club five years ago and broadened his education with playing spells at Manchester City and New York City, before spending a year as Derby County manager, guiding the Rams to the Championship play-off final. He came in just five weeks ago to replace Sarri, who left for Juventus, and unlike Solskjaer has been unable to dip into the transfer market, owing to Chelsea's FIFA-imposed ban on doing deals.

Given the circumstances and Lampard's standing among the fans, David Luiz expects the new coach will have an easier bedding-in period than others.   -  Getty Images

 

The former England midfielder has a strong relationship with the club, from the stands to the boardroom, and can rely on a generous response if Chelsea take a while to find their stride under his leadership. Managers during the Roman Abramovich era have rarely lasted longer than two seasons but there are high hopes for Lampard, and a certain expectation he will be given time.

- Squad strength -

Some United supporters feel there is a dangerous level of dead wood in the squad, but those players who faced criticism last season have a chance to show they deserved to remain. The club has retained David de Gea along with fellow star turn Marcus Rashford and the often infuriating yet plainly gifted Paul Pogba. Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and James look strong signings, but it would be a surprise to see United finish in the top four, especially having lost the firepower of Romelu Lukaku.

Harry Maguire joined Manchester United for a reported £80million from Leicester City.   -  Getty Images

 

Far from being left threadbare by the transfer ban, Chelsea remains jammed with quality, so much so that Lampard allowed his squad to be pruned on deadline day. The Blues signed Christian Pulisic before being punished by FIFA, with his arrival offsetting at least partly the blow of losing Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.

The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori could enjoy breakthrough seasons, with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek set to be prominent once they return to fitness. But the established brigade, including Jorginho, Olivier Giroud, N'Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Willian, will also be heavily involved.

- Fighting for fourth? -

There is a reasonable perception these teams will be jostling for Europa League places come next spring. Manchester City and Liverpool are streets ahead, with Tottenham and Arsenal seemingly also better equipped for the coming nine months. It makes a strong start imperative if United or Chelsea harbour serious ambitions of making a top-four breakthrough. Sustaining any early momentum will be key, and United may need to invest again in January to stay in the hunt for success.

If these clubs are sensible, both will consider this moment a turning point and plan accordingly. With a reasoned, long-term strategy, either could be back on top of English football inside the next five years and stay there for even longer.

Chelsea's established brigade, including Jorginho (in picture), Olivier Giroud, N'Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Willian, will be heavily involved in the side's success this season   -  Getty Images

 

Yet both institutions find themselves in a pickle and both see going back to what they know as a means to move forward. If Solskjaer and Lampard succeed as the figureheads, they will need unequivocal support and unwavering patience. A major gear change from clubs that have been too easily distracted by the sweet temptation of short-term success, in other words.

- Form guide -

United built confidence ahead of the new season by winning all six of its warm-up games. Solskjaer needs that kind of form if those who doubt the decision to hand him a full-time deal are to be silenced.

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Chelsea ended the season on a high, thrashing Arsenal in the Europa League final, but seemed unperturbed when Sarri left for Juve. Lampard came in with minimal managerial experience on his side but the pre-season signs have been generally positive. The Stamford Bridge favourite secured four wins from seven and extracted promising performances from Ross Barkley, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic, among others.

- History says -

Bobby Charlton scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory for United the last time it hosted Chelsea on the opening day of the season, in 1958.

However, Premier League encounters have proved more competitive. United, the 13-time champion, has lost more games (18) and conceded more goals (71) against Chelsea than any other team in the competition, despite going undefeated in their past six meetings at Old Trafford.

Of greater concern for the Blues is that their opponents are unbeaten in 25 of their past 26 matches played at home on the opening weekend of a top-flight campaign.

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