Friday, April 2, 2010

Moment of truth

For the longest time now, I have been looking forward to this game knowing that this would be the clincher. I still believe it will be, but now my worst fear has been coupled with it.

I'm talking, of course, about the missing Mr Rooney. The man who seems to give his all, running from end to end, sliding in for every tackle, trying to stop goals as well as make them and score them.

England fans may be thankful that his injury is not as bad as first feared and that he will be available for the World Cup in June and July, barring any other injuries, but United fans will be cursing the loss of their talismanic striker at a time when the season is about to end. What more when the title is hanging in the balance, with just a point separating MU from Chelsea and Arsenal only a few more points behind.

Now Chelsea come to Old Trafford more rested than their opponents are, having been kicked out of the Champions League earlier, and on a high having scored 12 goals in their last two league games.

There is no doubt Rooney is an influential and inspirational player on the pitch. Whether his absence is felt will, however, rest on whether the rest of the team can step up and do the job without him.

Berbatov should step into the role Rooney currently occupies as lone striker up front. Fergie tends to use the formation I prefer seeing United play (4-4-2) when playing at home, but in this instance, with a Chelsea team seemingly rampant in front of goal, I think Sir Alex will opt for a 4-5-1 formation, or a derivative there of.

The fact that the only other first team strikers available to him are Diouf, who has yet to impress, and Macheda, who has only just returned from a long-term injury, will also play a part in the decision to go 4-5-1. I'm thinking he will play Giggs in the hole just behind Berbatov.

(You can argue that in this case, the formation will be 4-4-1-1, but I prefer calling it 4-5-1 since it's not a striker playing behind Berba.)

On the wings will likely be Nani and Valencia or Park, while the centre of the park will be marshalled, I believe, by Carrick and Fletcher.

If Fergie opts to play Nani behind Berba, then Valencia and Park will be flying down the wings, with Giggs waiting to come on if needed.

Of course, you never know until you see the starting line-up as you still have players like Scholes and Gibson knocking on the door and champing at the bits. Who knows? Maybe Sir Alex will decide to go ahead and play a 4-4-2 formation. I doubt it as Chelsea are a class team and even though they are away, Sir Alex will definitely show them a little respect and try to control the midfield instead. After all, we just need a draw to keep ahead of them.

Actually, that's where I'm heading with this. I think it will be a draw, although I'm hoping, of course, there will be three points for United at the end of the day.

So, the ol' crystal ball is a little cloudy on this one. It's either a draw, or a slim, extremely hard-fought one-goal win for MU.

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