Somewhat suddenly, Manchester United’s season is up in the air. In the early-goings of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, the Red Devils looked practically invincible.
However, a tough defeat to Paris Saint-Germain brought the Old Trafford faithful crashing back down to earth. Things don’t get any easier, either. Next up, United head to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea, in a game that could well determine whether our season is a success or not.
Realistically, the FA Cup is United’s best chance at silverware. Win here and the Reds will find themselves into the last eight with as good a chance at any at lifting the trophy. Lose, the campaign is done, the best we can hope for is securing a top-four finish.
That makes tonight a must-win. With key injuries to both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, United’s attack will be far more stagnant. It’s all about blunting Chelsea’s midfield and winning that key battle. For that reason, our most vital asset is Ander Herrera.
Going toe-to-toe with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho isn’t going to be easy. Nemanja Matic will sit at the base while Paul Pogba will be tasked with getting forward and creating chances. Herrera’s job will be the same as usual; keep busy, work hard, pressure the opponent and force the mistakes.
Chelsea have struggled when put under stress and duress. If Herrera can get about the field and put some doubt into Jorginho’s mind, that’ll certainly help our cause. Then, it’s down to stopping Kante. The Frenchman always seems to play out of his skin against us, but he’s playing further forward than he’s accustomed to. That’s a job for Matic.
Remember the man-marking job Herrera did on Eden Hazard a couple of seasons ago? I wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see something similar unfold at times during tonight’s clash. He’ll look to frustrate Chelsea’s go-to man. If you limit Hazard’s time in possession, you’ll go an awfully long way to stopping Maurizio Sarri’s men.
Another key tactic while on the road is to silence the crowd. Who’s the master at going down under tiny pressure? Who’s great in the fine art of winding others up? Yup, our Herrera. If he can get to work on that from the first kick-off, Chelsea heads will get even more hot-headed.
In short. Herrera’s the key. We know what Pogba can do, we know how good Marcus Rashford can be. If our defence holds up and Herrera plays a blinder, United have every chance at progressing through into the FA Cup last eight.