Manchester United’s trip to Stamford Bridge feels like a Charles Dickens story for Jose Mourinho. There’s the ghosts of Jose past, in the form of a Blues side who he lead to the title before crashing into the ground.
The ghosts of Jose present will be dotted around the pitch in red shirts, and perhaps looking down from the stands if Ed Woodward is in attendance. A bad result here and Jose’s future ghosts might be haunting him down the job centre.
The bad news for Mourinho is that away wins in this fixture are rarer than solid defensive performances by United.
These teams have met 12 times in all competitions over the last five years, and ignoring the FA Cup final on neutral territory last May, the home side have picked up seven wins and four draws.
This is reflected in Paddy’s odds. Chelsea are 4/6 to win, with the draw at 11/4 and United at a whopping 4/1 to take the points. The Red Devils’ odds to win a league game have only been as long twice since Fergie retired, so we can probably take that as twice in the Premier League era. Is there any value in a punt on the visitors?
With the players they’ve got anything’s possible, but it’s nigh on impossible to make a decent case for them. United only won two of their 10 league trips to fellow big six sides in Mourinho’s first two seasons in charge.
The nerdy numbers paint an even worse picture. The underlying stats suggest they should’ve taken just two points from those matches, never mind two wins.
To compound this, Chelsea have the best home record in the top six mini-league for the period since August 2016. The stats suggest they’ve won more points than their performances merited, but also that they should have only lost twice in the 12 matches.
It’s hard to look past a home win on Saturday lunchtime.
In fact, the form book suggests it’s hard to even see United scoring. They’ve only found the net in two of their six visits to the blue half of west London under Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho. In the latter’s time in the hot seat, it hasn’t just been a problem at Chelsea either.
In Jose’s 10 league trips to face other top Premier League sides, United have failed to score seven times. On two of the occasions when they have netted they’ve bagged three, suggesting when it goes right from an attacking sense, it goes really right. But with a record like that behind them, it would be foolish not to bet ‘no’ in the both teams to score market. It’s yours for 19/20.
United’s lack of goals may guide you towards betting ‘under 2.5’ in the total goals market, but their lack of a credible defence might point you in a different direction.
David de Gea has bailed them out time and again in the past, but when his save percentage is below league average – as it is in 2018/19 – then you know United are in trouble. In just eight league games this season they’ve conceded 14 goals, which is half of the total they let in during the whole of last season.
The windows of Jose’s bus have been well and truly smashed in, and the tyres have been slashed.
United have conceded three-or-more goals in five league games under Mourinho, but three of those have occurred in their last seven matches. With Hazard in red-hot form and licking his lips at the prospect of facing United’s defence, I’m going for over 2.5 goals, which is priced at 4/5.
Speaking of Hazard, he leads the scorer markets despite having a relatively modest record in big games in recent times. He did score the last time these teams met, but that was from the penalty spot. The Belgian only bagged one goal in the big six mini league last season too.
But he’s in form in 2018/19. Hazard netted home and away against Liverpool recently, and leads the Premier League for both total and opening goals this season. He’s 7/2 to open the scoring or evens to beat de Gea at some point.
I’d also keep Alvaro Morata in mind. No, honestly, I would. He has scored in his last two Chelsea matches, got the winner in this fixture last season, and scored three goals in the big six mini-league since the start of 2017/18. No United player can top that tally, so with the Spaniard likely to start the game on the bench, keep him in mind for an anytime scorer bet at evens, or perhaps last scorer at 7/2.
As the only United player with more than one non-penalty league goal this season, Romelu Lukaku has to be the tip for their side of the scorer market.
However, only one of his 20 league goals for the Red Devils has been against one of the big boys. Granted it was against the Blues, but his United career has had a touch of the flat track bully to it so far. The former Chelsea man is 21/10 to get on the score sheet on Saturday.
For the last five years, there has always been a match between two of the big six when domestic football resumes after a mid-season international break. The home side has only lost five of the 19 matches.
I’d be surprised if Jose’s misfiring Mancs make that six this weekend.