Manchester United FC will play on Sunday against Chelsea FC, but both of their star forwards, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, will be out for the match. Clearly, United manager, David Moyes, has seen better days. Rooney, although recently returned from training in a warmer climate, has not yet been cleared to play. Moyes’ comments indicate more caution now than previously, perhaps regretting letting Rooney play without being completely fit on New Year’s Day. He indicated that the club would be taking it slowly, not wanting to give a specific date. He did say that Rooney looked fit in training, and that he did not anticipate the absence being long-term.
Van Persie has, indeed, been out long-term. He has been absent for much of the Manchester United train wreck which occurred since the beginning of January. With three out of four matches lost, and Rooney out, any news of a possible return for Van Persie will be welcomed by fans, even if not in time for the grudge match against Chelsea. Moyes said that he hopes to see him in training next week, looking toward returning sooner rather than later. That is welcome news in Manchester, though it will not help them at all to face the challenge of travelling to face a Chelsea squad that is on a roll, and fighting to stay in the top four of the standings. Given the fact that Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, will be looking to score win number 100 in Premier League play, the task the club faces is considerable. Manchester United will have to come up with something very creative to keep the “Special One” from his goal.
Mourinho has started with some of his patented mind games ahead of Sunday’s match. As reported by ESPN FC, Mourinho speculated on Rooney’s future with Manchester United just this past week. He made light of the possibility of acquiring Rooney for Chelsea himself, despite two attempts last summer and rumors that there is a £30 million bid just waiting for the opportunity to steal him away. Mourinho did speculate that Manchester United might be looking to sell Rooney to another European club in a different league next summer, citing their reluctance to sell to a Premier League rival. Van Persie was left out of the Chelsea manager’s predictions.
Denials all around, of course, as there always are this time of year. If nothing else, however, Mourinho appears to have ruffled Moyes’ feathers a bit with his statements. Moyes did not address Mourinho directly in response, but did state that he could not understand why the statements would be made or what could be gained by them. In what appeared to be a practiced response to questions about a strained relationship between the two, Moyes was quick to say that he respected Mourinho for his accomplishments and coaching style, and that he had no problems with the man. Fair to say, however, that there was no other way for him to answer without making the story bigger than it already is.
Moyes will not go down easily, however, and may yet have something to foil Mourinho’s bid for the century mark. With Danny Welbeck the most likely choice to start up front for the Manchester United side, the revised line-up might well match up better than expected against Mourinho’s narrow defensive shapes. Chelsea likes to force the attack out to the wings and opt to defend balls in from the edges rather than allowing them to be dropped in from the middle-backs. That may backfire with a player like Antonio Valencia coming up the right side. If the two can find a way to connect, Manchester United FC might just get the last laugh against Chelsea FC despite the loss of Van Persie and Rooney for the match.
By Jim Malone