16 min: A pause in play as Rashford goes down, having been accidentally nutted in the back of the head by Zouma, the pair contesting a high ball. He’s up again quickly enough, good to go.
15 min: Kante is close to sliding Havertz clear down the middle, but his precision pass is well read, just in time, by Maguire.
13 min: Jorginho passes long down the right. Werner nearly latches onto the ball, but Maguire gets across in time to head away from danger. Neither team are prepared to risk too much in attack right now, perhaps mindful of their recent defensive travails.
11 min: United stroke it around awhile, not to any great effect. Both teams very much putting the feelers out at the minute.
9 min: It’s all a bit too fast at the minute. Passing sequences are at a premium right now.
7 min: It’s nice and open. Fernandes and Mata nearly open Chelsea up with a crisp one-two down the right, but Zouma gets in the road.
5 min: Pulisic drives at United down the inside-left channel. He’s got the chance to spring Werner clear through the middle, but opts to dribble his way into a shooting position. His notions of scoring are checked by Wan-Bissaka, who aquaplanes across to block.
3 min: Jorginho launches long. Lindelof stands tall against Werner to clear the danger. I hope they’ve fixed that hole in the Old Trafford roof.
2 min: The conditions are horrendous. The rain’s been hosing down for hours, and the pitch is very heavy as a result. Plenty of scope for slapstick shenanigans. Everyone quite literally finding their feet in these opening exchanges. Take care, everyone!
Chelsea get the ball rolling … but not before everyone takes a knee. Black lives matter. There’s no room for racism. The visitors will be kicking towards the Stretford End in this first half.
The teams are out! United are in their famous red, Chelsea their storied blue. The weather in Manchester is, well, positively Mancunian … the rain is sheeting down. We’ll be off in a minute or two. “In a season where making predictions is turning out to be a fool’s errand, there is one result that can already be called – the Guardian footballer of the Year,” writes Vibhanshu Bisht. “Unless Alisson emerges from his injury break with a Covid vaccine that he tested on himself and then gives it away for free.” There’s a lot of love around for Marcus Rashford all right, and every last bit of it richly deserved. What a seriously impressive young man. (And while we’re on the subject, here’s a quick reminder about the donation page for Gorse Hill packed lunches, as explained in this MBM’s preamble.)
Frank Lampard talks his Chelsea team up … with caveats. “We’re doing OK. We can do better, without a doubt. We’re seeing across the league that teams are trying to find form, and we’re one of those, but our result in midweek was good because you saw a team that was solid. That’s what we’ve been striving for. But we can do better. Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem, but we’re coming to a very good team so we have to get both sides of our game right. We’re making relationships through the team so I expect progression with that. We must play with a real organisation and be confident. We know we can give Manchester United – any team – a problem.”
Should Manchester United be defeated today, they’ll equal an unwanted club record by losing their first three home games of the season. That was their fate in 1930-31, when they lost their first 12 matches straight. Their first three defeats at Old Trafford that season saw Aston Villa win 4-3, Huddersfield Town 6-0 and Newcastle United 7-4. And you thought the Spurs debacle was bad. United were unsurprisingly relegated at the end of the campaign, and manager Herbert Bamlett was sent on his way. This fiasco seems to be Bamlett’s legacy, which is slightly unfair seeing he took unfashionable Oldham Athletic to the brink of the title in 1915, but this is where we all are.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has kept his team together since Paris, staying in a hotel last night. “It was something that we wanted to do this time, keep everyone together. The atmosphere has been good, so we want to keep it going. Sometimes you have to reward players who play well, and there are a few players who deserve to be in the team. This set-up was the best we felt. You go through different scenarios, and the team that played in Paris also deserved to play again. But of course Anthony is suspended so we had to change a little bit. Every substitute is match-dependant. I hope to get Cavani on in a comfortable position, but if it is a precarious situation he’ll be a threat because he has looked really good in training.”
Pre-match reading. These two have a habit of racking up the goals. Here are a few blasts from the past as we while away the time before kick-off.
Harry Maguire is back, baby. He’s one of three changes to Manchester United from the XI named against PSG midweek. Juan Mata and Dan James also return. Making way: Alex Telles, Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe. The latter has our permission to feel a little miffed at being stood down after his excellent performance up against Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Alongside him on the bench: Edinson Cavani, who could make his United debut this afternoon.
There’s just one change to the Chelsea side from the team picked for the goalless draw with Sevilla. The captain Cesar Azpilicueta returns; Mason Mount drops to the bench.
Manchester United: de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Mata, Bruno Fernandes, James, Rashford.
Subs: Pogba, Cavani, Greenwood, Henderson, Matic, van de Beek, Tuanzebe.
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Zouma, James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell, Havertz, Pulisic, Werner.
Subs: Rudiger, Abraham, Caballero, Kovacic, Giroud, Mount, Ziyech.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Welcome to our live coverage of Marcus Rashford v The Man. “Gorsehill is in spitting distance of Old Trafford,” begins Judith Mellor. “The Primary School is down the road from the ground. It is a rainbow nation of a school. My daughter (who is a teacher) will be volunteering for ‘Gorsehill Mums with Limited Funds’, which will be organising packed lunches for local schoolkids next week during half term. These are mums with limited funds helping those with no funds. There is a GoFundMe page.”
We’ll also be keeping tabs on Manchester United v Chelsea, one of the blue-riband fixtures of English football. United did the double over Chelsea last season, winning 4-0 at Old Trafford and 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, but the Blues got some revenge in the semi-final of the FA Cup with a comprehensive 3-1 victory. There are often goals when these two meet, and hopefully that’ll be the case today, with plenty of attacking talent on show and neither defence exactly on top of their game.
Hope for United: the aforementioned Rashford has four goals in his last three appearances against Chelsea. Hope for Chelsea: United have lost their first two home matches of the season to an aggregate score of 9-2. Hope for us all: Rashford again. Kick off’s at 5.30pm. It’s on!