MU and Chelsea
Chelsea and Manchester United will tangle at Old Trafford on Sunday. Reuters

Sunday's featured Premier League matchup offers a battle of the minds between an upstart manager and an elder statesman, when Chelsea travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson, 69, will be looking to guide his first-place Red Devils over the Blues, who are managed by 33-year-old Andre Villas-Boas.

Earlier this year, Daily Mail described Ferguson as the grumpy Glaswegian who has built a career on confrontation, while David Beckham described Ferguson as a father figure, and the same has been said of the relationship between Ferguson and players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, and Gary Neville.

Young Villas-Boas is still carving out an identity beyond just a devoted tactician, as he steps out of the shadow of former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. In his short time with the Blues, Villas-Boas has been animated and fiery on the sideline.

As much as the media focus will be on the disparity of age between Ferguson and Villas-Boas, the match is what really matters, and both squads boast impressive rosters as they make a run at the Premier League title.

While Chelsea have a collection of aging stars, there are plenty of young players who have shined recently. Striker Daniel Sturridge, 22, scored perhaps the best goal of the short season for Chelsea against Sunderland last week, while 24-year-old David Luiz blasted a right-footed score against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

Summer transfer addition Juan Mata, 23, also scored for Chelsea on Tuesday, and the creative midfielder is confident going into Sunday's match.

Obviously, [Manchester United] have had a strong start, said the Spaniard, according to Sky Sports. But I think that we're closing that gap.

Ferguson's squad are well aware of the Blues' collective talent and won't take the 2010 Champions lightly.

Chelsea are a top side, with a lot of experience, said midfielder Michael Carrick. They have a new manager and have brought in some younger, fresher, exciting players.

The Red Devils didn't quite look themselves against Benfica on Wednesday. Though United earned a draw on the road, star forward Wayne Rooney didn't make much of an impact, and neither did substitutes Ji-Sung Park and Javier Hernandez.

Perhaps Rooney could use a return to Old Trafford and Premier League competition to return to his previous form. The 25-year-old has scored eight goals, and has one assist this season in four Premier League matches, while Manchester United, against West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Bolton, have outscored their opponents by a combined total of 18-3.

Centre back Nemanja Vidic remains sidelined for the Red Devils, along with right back Rafael, midfielder Tom Cleverley. Forward Danny Welbeck and centre back Rio Ferdinand might be back in action against Chelsea.

The Blues will be without injured Michael Essien, and Didier Drogba is questionable due to a head injury.


Manchester United:

G: De Gea

D: Smalling, Jones, Ferdinand, Evra

M: Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Young

F: Rooney, Hernandez


G: Cech

D: Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cole

M: Mata, Lampard, Ramires, Meireles

F: Anelka, Sturridge


It will be a very intense match. Both clubs go into Sunday with a lot to prove, particularly Chelsea considering this is Villas-Boas's first opportunity to prove he can compete with a Premier League giant. Manchester United have a squad that is good enough to go the entire season without a loss at Old Trafford, so an early season loss would be very demoralizing.

Experienced Chelsea stars Frank Lampard and Jason Terry are rested and will be a stable force in this match. They are both well acquainted with playing at Old Trafford, so there won't be many surprises for them. David Luiz, who saw his first appearance of the season against Bayer Leverkusen, should be in fine form.

The player that will shine for the Blues will be Mata. The clever midfielder will be up for the challenge of battling with his idol Ryan Giggs, and has the skills and confidence to outplay Ashley Young, Nani, and Anderson.

Don't expect Fernando Torres to see much time, if any at all. Though the air has been cleared between the forward and Villas-Boas, Torres is not the goal-scoring machine that Chelsea hoped for.

The Red Devils have a somewhat questionable back four. Without Vidic and Rafael, and considering Ferdinand may not be at 100 percent, that leaves only Patrice Evra playing in a regular starting role and fully fit. Chris Smalling will play right back, though the 21-year-old has looked more comfortable as a centre back. Phil Jones has performed well, but teenagers are often prone to mistakes. With De Gea having shown some lapses of confidence, Chelsea have a talented group of attackers that could exploit holes in United's defense.

Where Ferguson's squad will step up is with Rooney. The star forward has too much pride to not be at his best against a rival like Chelsea, and after performing like he was invisible for portions of the Benfica match.

Ferguson will also get help from his bench. A talented player who is itching to make his presence felt is forward Dimitar Berbatov. At times the Bulgarian has appeared lackidasical, but at this point he has no choice but to put his best effort in full view.

PREDICTION: Chelsea get an unlikely goal from Ramires, but United score before halftime with Petr Cech overcome by multiple efforts from Rooney and Hernandez. In the second half, Chelsea won't show signs of fatigue as Luiz and Terry will do a fine job of thwarting United's attack, while Mata and Lampard will eventually find Nicolas Anelka who will put the Blues ahead. But the surprising hero for the Red Devils will be Berbatov, who proves he deserves more playing time by scoring in the final minutes.

PREDICTED SCORE: Manchester United 2, Chelsea 2