It’s difficult to recall a game with so many intriguing talking points so early into a new season, with the nation’s football journalists juggling with several different angles ahead of Manchester United’s match against Chelsea on Monday.
On the one hand, David Moyes takes charge of his first match at Old Trafford, as the Theatre of Dreams witnesses the changing of the guard for the first time. It may be a peculiar statement to make after only two games in, but quite how much they’re missing Sir Alex could well revolve around this result.
The other focus sees Jose Mourinho make a return to Old Trafford as Chelsea manager. It’s been a textbook start so far for the returning Special One, registering two home wins to immediately set the early pace atop of the Premier League.
A win at Old Trafford would see Chelsea open up a six-point gap over their rivals before September. No one acknowledges the importance of such early psychological advantages as Jose Mourinho.
And the subject of mind games leads us to angle number three. Wayne Rooney.
Mourinho has mischievously suggested that a third bid for the striker will be made following the game, while Moyes has tried to counter by claiming that Rooney could well line-up in a United shirt from the start on Monday evening.
Quite what frame of mind the striker himself is in remains to be seen, with his desire to leave Old Trafford and start afresh elsewhere well documented. Should the script take another twist, Rooney is 7/1 to score first, though the same odds for him to score last may be the more prudent choice given that Moyes is more likely to start the unsettled striker on the bench.
As ever, Robin Van Persie is a shoo-in to lead the line for United, a big reason behind Rooney’s Old Trafford malaise, but with 26 league goals in his first season and with two goals in the season opener at Swansea, it’s hard to argue with his preferential treatment.
And while Chelsea’s £30m purchase of Willian provides their latest in a long line of top class midfield quality, Van Persie’s presence at the top of United’s tree only highlights the one area where Chelsea are still short.
Fernando Torres has improved in a Chelsea shirt but few will argue that he has ever found true top form at Stamford Bridge, while Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku can prove reliable goalscorers on their day, but are no where near the world class level of Van Persie.
And while Moyes’ record against Mourinho in head-to-head games does not bode well for United fans – with three draws from eight games as good as it got – it’s worth remembering that Everton never boasted a striker of Van Persie’s class. The Dutchman is 6/5 to score at any time.
United were imperious against Swansea, while Chelsea were stretched against Villa in midweek and with it being their third game in just over a week, Moyes will be hoping to get at the visitors from the off. The home side are slight favourites at 11/8, while those tipping Mourinho to make his mark can back Chelsea at 2/1. The draw is 11/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.