Sides still finding their feet in the early running of the new Premier League season meet when Manchester United host Chelsea on Saturday (12:30pm ET).
They finished third and fourth last season, level on points, with a superior goal difference seeing United take the higher position, but neither of them have been particularly convincing in their opening matches of the new campaign.
Chelsea have taken eight points from five, while Man Utd have six from four. Neither seems to have solved the issues that saw them finish so far behind champions Liverpool last season. It was a 33-point gap they had both hoped to eat into this time around, at the least.
United’s season got off to a bad start with a 1-3 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their opener. They followed that with victory over Brighton, only to fall to an embarrassing 1-6 loss at home to Tottenham Hotspur. They seemed on course to drop more points away at Newcastle last weekend, only for a late flurry of goals to turn one point into three in a 4-1 win.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side spent most of the match chasing the game after going behind to an early Luke Shaw own goal, eventually taking 28 shots to the seven of their hosts. Harry Maguire equalized from a corner in the 23rd minute, but they then had to wait until five minutes from time to score again. Bruno Fernandes had already missed a penalty before he fired them in front. Further goals from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford added late gloss to the scoreline.
Man Utd then began their Champions League campaign in fine style with a 2-1 win away to last season’s runner up Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. Rashford was again on target, notching the late winner. While David de Gea was forced into a couple of superb saves, it was nevertheless a very solid performance from United and one that helped to deflect some of the criticism that has come Solskjaer’s way after their shaky start to the league season.
Under him, MUFC have often looked most comfortable playing the counter-attack against offensively minded teams. That was the case in midweek, and will again be so on Saturday, against a Chelsea side who United beat home and away in the Premier League last season, including a 4-0 triumph at Old Trafford.
Frank Lampard was never quite able to get a firm grip on Chelsea’s issues in defensive transitions during his first season at the helm. While there were other contributing factors, the end result was that they conceded a mammoth 54 goals, seven more than any other side in the top seven and a full 18 more than Man Utd.
Chelsea did score enough goals themselves (a league third best of 69) to somewhat equalize that deficiency. It clearly wasn’t something that was identified as a major issue given that the large majority of their heavy off-season investment went into the forward positions.
Perhaps the plan was simply to add enough firepower to outscore their opponents regularly, even if by a single goal in seven, but if that was the case it has yet to work out for them. Wins against Brighton and Crystal Palace have been joined to a 0-2 defeat to Liverpool and a pair of 3-3 draws against West Bromwich Albion and Southampton.
Chelsea came back from three goals down at the interval to secure the first of those draws, but they were the ones who gave up an early advantage at home to Southampton last weekend. Two goals inside the opening half-hour from new signing Timo Werner seemed to have them set for victory, only for Saints to strike back and level things before the hour. Another new arrival Kai Havertz restored Chelsea’s lead, but Saints equalized again late on.
That result was followed by a goalless draw in their Champions League opener against Sevilla on Tuesday in a match in which their visitors pretty much completely shut the game down.
Saturday’s encounter is likely to have more in common with the Southampton game. Man Utd are far from perfect themselves, but they tend to thrive against teams who set up like Chelsea do. They have won three of the last four meetings between the sides at Old Trafford and can be expected to make it four out of five this weekend. So this is the MUFC vs CFC predictions and betting picks verdict for this Premier League game preview: