Manchester United will aim to keep their fleeting hopes of a top-four Premier League finish alive when Chelsea make the journey to Old Trafford on Thursday night. The Red Devils went down 3-1 to Arsenal at the weekend, while Thomas Tuchel’s men left it late to overcome London rivals West Ham United 1-0. In spite of fleeting optimism that the appointment of Erik ten Hag could galvanise the Man United players – some of whom may be playing for their futures at the club under the new boss – the Red Devils once again lost ground in the race for Champions League football to a direct top-four rival at the Emirates.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th Premier League goal after a tragic week was a nice touch for the 37-year-old, but Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka struck in a 3-1 success for the Gunners, who certainly rode their luck as Bruno Fernandes missed from the spot in the second half. Taking just four points from 15 on offer since the start of the month and losing three of their last four means that Man United are at risk of dropping out of the European places entirely never mind a Champions League pursuit, with Ralf Rangnick’s side now sixth in the rankings and six points behind Arsenal having played a game more.
West Ham are also breathing down the necks of Man United, and reports are starting to emerge of Rangnick allegedly losing the dressing room at Old Trafford, but the Red Devils can at least take a slice of confidence from their domestic home form ahead of Thursday’s game. Indeed, Rangnick’s men have strung together a seven-game Premier League unbeaten run at Old Trafford – following a pattern of winning one and then drawing one on home soil – and not since the days of Louis Van Gaal in 2015 have they suffered a trio of consecutive defeats in the top flight Chelsea can empathise with their upcoming opponents after also conceding multiple goals in a recent defeat to Arsenal.
While Man United were boosted by the return of Raphael Varane from injury in the defeat to Arsenal, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Luke Shaw – the former of whom has likely played his final game for the club – remain on the sidelines alongside new absentees Harry Maguire (knee) and Jadon Sancho (illness). Fred will not be back in time for the visit of the European champions either, but Rangnick should consider a recall to the first XI for Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof with Maguire and Sancho now out of contention. Both Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata can feel confident of challenging Fernandes for a place in the side after the Portuguese’s recent struggles, while Alex Telles was at fault for two of Arsenal’s goals at the weekend but is unlikely to drop out with Shaw out of contention.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have long-term absentees of their own who will not be available for the contest in Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while Mateo Kovacic’s ankle problem will take a little longer to heal. Andreas Christensen was pulled from the squad to face West Ham at the last minute due to stomach cramps but should be available here, while Antonio Rudiger and Reece James should both have good chances of returning too. With Tuchel potentially opting to save the rotations for the clash with relegation-threatened Everton, Pulisic may be one of the few players on the bench at the weekend considered for a start at Old Trafford if Timo Werner drops out of the XI.
NAME: Manchester United – Chelsea
DATE: 28 Apr 2022
TIME: 18:45 UTC
VENUE: Old Trafford, Manchester, England