The signs are not good for Manchester United as they travel to Chelsea this weekend, for two major reasons.
Firstly, United really need a win. Secondly, they very rarely get one at Stamford Bridge.
We’ve taken a closer look at just how bad that Reds away record against the Blues is; before looking at why this game is so, so critical for Jose Mourinho and his players.
How bad is it?United’s away record at the Bridge has been shocking long before Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford. He of course was responsible for some of the misery Chelsea have heaped on down the years.
The 3-2 win there in October 2012 was United’s only league win in 16 attempts since their last top flight triumph over the Blues back in 2003.
That period has also seen the Reds lose at Stamford Bridge three times in domestic cup competitions. Even Sir Alex Ferguson could not find a formula to deal with Chelsea’s muscular style and formidable defence.
As the identity of the man in the home dugout changed, the results have stayed near-constant. United have only one point from five league trips to the Bridge post-Fergie; the 1-1 draw in December 2015, when Chelsea were in the immediate aftermath of Mourinho’s disastrous second spell at the club.
Why is the game so big?The eventual euphoria threatens to overshadow just how shambolic United were in the first half against Newcastle last time out.
The Magpies had not even been ahead this season before travelling to Old Trafford, but were scything through at will; so it does not bear thinking about what Eden Hazard and Maurizio Sarri’s new-look attack could do to United.
The game offers Mourinho the opportunity to prove that the Newcastle fightback was no flash in the pan; the players can also show that they are capable of playing at that intensity from the start of a game, rather than just for 20 minutes when hope is lost.
The Portuguese must show he still possesses the formulas to win these big games; he used to win more often than not against United as Chelsea manager, but his side has not scored a goal in four visits to the Bridge as Reds boss.
The fixture calendar does not look kind to United in the coming weeks. Only a win here would avoid going into a tough run than includes Juventus and Manchester City with anything less than an impending sense of doom.
Mourinho was sacked on 17 December 2015 by Chelsea; on 16 December 2018, United’s rough run of fixtures will come to an end with a trip to Liverpool. History could be repeating itself…