The way things have gone over the last six months, it looks on paper to be a fantastic opportunity for Jose Mourinho to really heap the misery on United and David Moyes. After all, it looked like Mourinho would be a favourite to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson when he left Real Madrid and clearly wanted the job, only for Fergie to push for compatriot Moyes instead.
Since then, Mourinho has returned to Chelsea and is finally starting to rekindle the understanding with his squad that he had when leading them to two straight Premier League titles in the mid-2000s. Moyes, meanwhile, is learning the hard way that his new squad is a far cry from the Red Devils of the past, and that succeeding Ferguson is an extremely difficult task.
All signs point to Mourinho perhaps showing a rare sign of letting his personal feelings overwhelm his professional duties and unleashing a more attack-minded, less-conservative approach upon the beleaguered champions, who look a shell of their usual selves without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
However, I think Jose will stick to his guns.
He is too tactical and perhaps too stubborn to try to put the boot to a fallen United by searching for an emphatic home victory. And I commend him for that. He will approach this like every other game and will not let the supporters' or the media’s criticism of his defensive ways distract from his very serious title challenge.
That’s bad news for Juan Mata, who would probably be given a rare green light under Mourinho had the ‘Special One’ been one to really hold a grudge against United. Nonetheless, Eden Hazard and company are really stepping up their game and will provide plenty for the visitors to worry about even without the fantastic Spaniard.
You can probably expect the attacking midfield to carry even more confidence from here on out, too, now that Mourinho has finally got his man and brought back Nemanja Matic to the club for a much higher fee than Benfica paid to take him on years ago.
Jose said he was unlikely to recruit big additions this month, and then went forth and signed Matic, which suggests he sees big things in his future as he looks to further shore up the insurance policy of his attack. Perhaps that bodes well for the other positional issue Chelsea need to address – strikers.
Although time will tell as far as the Blues picking up another front man this month or not are concerned, it’s hard to see an unhappy ending for the club when it comes to the more immediate topic of the clash with United.
I expect a Chelsea victory, albeit in their usual style and by no means a cricket score. In fact, United can safely consider a defeat at the Bridge as something that doesn’t have too much damage on the remainder of their campaign, and a point on the road would be a fantastic result for them.
It’s not often you ever hear that said about the mighty Manchester United, but there’s a first time for everything. And perhaps it will be whether such a proud and successful club can get used to operating from that position that decides whether or not they bounce back and snatch a Champions League spot this season, after all.