Premier League 2018-19: Big Match Focus: Manchester United vs Chelsea

Just four days after suffering a seventh defeat in nine matches, Manchester United faces the daunting prospect of a clash with Chelsea.

Manchester United is in the midst of its worst run of form in 57 years, having lost seven of its last nine matches in all competitions.   -  AFP

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described his first few weeks as Manchester United manager as "a rollercoaster" but back then, while guiding the team to 12 unbeaten Premier League matches, he surely never envisaged his side's form plummeting downhill as fast as it has.

Wednesday night's 2-0 defeat to Manchester City was United's seventh in nine matches across all competitions, and the club's decision to hand Solskjaer a three-year contract in March is starting to look questionable.

The Norwegian will be desperate for the season to end and begin a much-needed rebuilding process, but first he must attempt to stop the rot and resume United's push for Champions League qualification by beating Maurizio Sarri's inconsistent Chelsea side.

The Blues have infuriated their travelling supporters with their stuttering away form, but, with third place still well within reach, Sarri's men will be keen to compound Solskjaer's problems.

SOLSKJAER AND SARRI TOIL UNDER DARK CLOUDS

Solskjaer's men have plenty of reasons to believe they can force a win that would lift the gloom and avoid a first run of four defeats in a row since December 2015   -  Reuters

 

The mood around Old Trafford is so bleak that it is easy to forget that United could draw level on points with Chelsea by beating the visitors.

What is more, it is only 14 months ago that Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score a 75th-minute winner that handed Jose Mourinho's United side a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at the Theatre of Dreams, and the Red Devils' starting line-up has not changed dramatically since then.

Chelsea is unbeaten in the league at home in 2019 but it has won only two of their last seven top-flight away games, losing all of the other five, which included a 4-0 reverse at Bournemouth and a 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City.

Solskjaer's men, who beat the Blues 2-0 in the FA Cup in February, have plenty of reasons to believe they can force a win that would lift the gloom and avoid a first run of four defeats in a row since December 2015, when they lost to Wolfsburg, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Stoke City.

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HEAD TO HEAD: KEPA ARRIZABALAGA v DAVID DE GEA

Manchester United goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's season has generally been solid, keeping 13 clean sheets and conceding 38 goals,   -  Reuters

 

Two of Spain's best goalkeepers have come under plenty of scrutiny in the Premier League this season, with Kepa getting to grips with English football, while De Gea is arguably having his worst campaign since his first at United.

Kepa's season has generally been solid, with the former Athletic Bilbao man keeping 13 clean sheets and conceding 38 goals, whereas De Gea has just seven shutouts and had 50 goals against him.

READ: 'Man Utd not ready to compete with City or Liverpool next season'

De Gea comes out on top in terms of saves, making 116 to Kepa's 76 and having a 69.5 save percentage – the Chelsea stopper keeping out 66.7 per cent of shots.

Where De Gea's season really falls down, however, is the fact he has made three errors that have led to goals.

Kepa is guilty of no such mistakes, while he has also saved one of the two penalties he has faced. De Gea had not kept out any of the five spot-kicks against him.

FORM GUIDE

United is in the midst of its worst run of form in 57 years, having lost seven of its last nine matches in all competitions. The last time it endured such a torrid streak was in 1962, when Leyton Orient, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers were among seven clubs to beat the Red Devils over a nine-game period.

Keeping a clean sheet has become seemingly impossible for United, which has gone 12 games since its last shut-out against Liverpool on February 24. Barcelona put three past the team in Camp Nou and Everton romped to a 4-0 win at Goodison Park before City cruised to a 2-0 victory.

RELATED: Blind hopeful of Man Utd resurgence under Solskjaer

Chelsea has recovered from a woeful spell that saw the team lose six time in 12 games between January 8 and February 24, and arrive at Old Trafford having lost once in its past five in the Premier League.

Maurizio Sarri's men have been prolific in front of goal, scoring 20 times across their last 10 games in all competitions and will expect to trouble a defence that has conceded 50 goals this season - more than any United side since 2001-02.

Maurizio Sarri's men have been prolific in front of goal, scoring 20 times across their last 10 games in all competitions   -  AFP

 

HISTORY SAYS...

Chelsea has not won at Old Trafford in the league since May 2013, when Sir Alex Ferguson's side succumbed to a late goal from Juan Mata, who switched allegiances eight months later.

The Blues have drawn two and lost two of their four subsequent league games at Old Trafford, and a delve further into history does not make happy reading for the visitors.

READ: Chelsea manager Sarri charged by FA

In the last decade, the only other occasion when Chelsea left Old Trafford with three Premier League points was in April 2010, when Joe Cole and Didier Drogba scored in a 2-1 victory, with Federico Macheda scoring a late consolation for United.

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