Brace for a Reds-Blues duel

CityPress - - Sport -

Manch­ester United will be look­ing to kick-start their fal­ter­ing sea­son when they host strug­gling Chelsea at Old Traf­ford in the Premier League to­mor­row night.

The pres­sure on Red Devils man­ager Louis van Gaal is in­creas­ing by the day, with fans un­happy with the style of foot­ball he is em­ploy­ing at the club and re­sults not go­ing their way.

Con­sec­u­tive de­feats to Nor­wich and Bournemouth meant United had gone six games in all com­pe­ti­tions with­out a win be­fore yes­ter­day’s game against Stoke City – their worst win­less run in a sin­gle sea­son since 1998.

It also saw them drop out of the top four as Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur over­took them in the Cham­pi­ons League log, which is an un­ac­cept­able sce­nario for a club of United’s stature.

The Dutch man­ager hit back at sug­ges­tions that his job was un­der threat and that he may be re­placed by José Mour­inho, who was re­cently fired from his po­si­tion at Chelsea, by claim­ing the sit­u­a­tion has been cre­ated by the me­dia. He said he felt no pres­sure from within the club.

“I held meet­ings with the play­ers, with my mem­bers of staff. I held a Christ­mas lunch, I did a speech, and I feel the warmth and sup­port of ev­ery­body in Car­ring­ton,” he said.

“But I didn’t feel that in the me­dia. Of course I can imag­ine that you can write about that sub­ject [our bad re­sults], but you have to stick to the facts. “Four weeks ago, we were first in the Premier League and in about four weeks we could be back in that po­si­tion.” Another Dutch­man, Guus Hid­dink, has been brought in to steady the ship at Chelsea af­ter their dis­as­trous first half of the sea­son, which has the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons flirt­ing un­com­fort­ably with the rel­e­ga­tion zone. The in­ex­pli­ca­ble re­verse af­ter they dom­i­nated the Premier League last term re­sulted in Mour­inho los­ing his job, but the de­ci­sion was not pop­u­lar among the club’s fans.

The Blues faith­ful spent much of their match against Sun­der­land boo­ing their play­ers and singing the Por­tuguese coach’s name de­spite claim­ing their first win of their last four Premier League games.

Re­cent his­tory is heav­ily in favour of the Blues, with Chelsea last suf­fer­ing de­feat to United in the Premier League back in 2012 in a match in which they re­ceived two red cards.

Since that loss, in the eight times they have played, the Lon­don-based club has won four and drawn four, but it has been a long time since they have seemed as vul­ner­a­ble as they do now.

Fix­tures be­tween the sides are of­ten dra­matic, with the last 15 matches be­tween them pro­duc­ing seven red cards and 44 goals, with only one 0-0 draw.

In fact, the pair has only played to one goal­less draw in the past eight years.

Both Van Gaal and Hid­dink will feel like they have some­thing to prove to their fans, and will see their up­com­ing duel as the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to re­as­sure them that their clubs are go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

PHOTO: MATTHEW PE­TERS / GETTY IM­AGES

SEEK­ING RE­DEM­TION Louis van Gaal in­sists

there is noth­ing wrong

with his United team

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