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Man Utd v Chelsea

Old Trafford

Sunday, 26 November

Kick-off: 1600 GMT

Coverage on the BBC Sport website, BBC Radio Five Live & highlights on MOTD

Manchester United have no new injury worries ahead of the top-of-the-table clash with champions Chelsea.

Rio Ferdinand had been a doubt after picking up a foot injury but has been passed fit, while Patrice Evra could come in for left-back Gabriel Heinze.

Chelsea should have top scorer Didier Drogba (ankle) and midfielder Michael Ballack available after slight knocks.

Frank Lampard returns to the squad and Ricardo Carvalho (ankle) has recovered, but Salomon Kalou is still sidelined.

Man Utd (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Neville, O'Shea, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre, Heinze, Evra, Ronaldo, Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Richardson, Rooney, Saha, Smith.

Chelsea (from): Cudicini, Hilario, Ferreira, Geremi, Terry, Carvalho, Boulahrouz, Bridge, A Cole, Lampard, Essien, Ballack, Makelele, Drogba, Robben, Shevchenko, Wright-Phillips, J Cole, Diarra, Mikel.

BIG-MATCH FACTS

MANCHESTER UNITED against Chelsea is not only the Battle of the Titans, but a gladiatorial top-of-the-table joust between two of the superpowers of English soccer. It is not a title decider, but will go a long way to determine who will be in the driving seat in what's increasingly looking like a two horse race.

United go into this clash on a seven-match winning League run, and have the edge on Chelsea in almost every department. They have one more League win than their west London opponents, one less defeat, have scored six more goals, conceded one fewer and have gained three more points. Top League matches involving the Red Devils have generated more goals than any other club, and they head the "Form" table.

There's little to choose between these clubs in the Premiership head-to-head standings. Chelsea lead by nine wins to eight, with 11 of the 28 meetings drawn.

CHELSEA cannot really afford a defeat in this Sunday showdown if they're to eventually collect a third consecutive Premiership title. Indeed they need a victory to close the gap on Manchester United, and only a clear four goal triumph would see the Blues overhaul the Red Devils, who are seeking their first Premiership crown in four seasons.

Despite both losing 1-0 away in the Champions League this week (United at Celtic, Chelsea at Werder Bremen), the Londoners will take heart from the fact that they qualified for the knock out stages, while United have not yet done so. The Blues have scored in every League game this season - United have not. Indeed, the Stamford Bridge side have taken the lead in every League game and have kept one more clean sheet than their arch rivals.

The Blues are making their 15th Premiership visit to the Theatre of Dreams, and are looking for a fifth victory. Last season, Darren Fletcher scored the only goal of a high quality match at Old Trafford, which ended Chelsea's 40-match unbeaten League run. That's Sir Alex Ferguson's only victory in six League and Cup clashes with Mourinho's Chelsea, five of which were lost with one drawn. Taking into account Mourinho's time in charge of Porto, their head-to-head tally is five wins to Mourinho, one to Ferguson with two draws.

REFEREE

Howard Webb (Yorkshire)

SEQUENCES/RECENT FORM

MANCHESTER UNITED

Going into the weekend: 1st 34 points

(all statistics are ahead of this weekend's round of Premiership fixtures)

1. Bidding to extend the longest current winning run in the Premiership to eight games, and to four on the bounce at home. Not dropped a point since the 1-1 draw at Reading on 23 September, and not lost a League game since the 0-1 reverse to Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams on 17 September.

2. Won more Premiership games than any other club this season (11), dropped fewest points (five), lost only one (as have Aston Villa), scored more goals (29) and conceded fewer than anybody else (six).

3. Holding the highest aggregate in the top tier of 35 goals (29 for, six against). Chelsea's aggregate is 30 (23 for, seven against).

4. Have the longest goalscorers list in the highest League of 10 players. Chelsea's League goals have been scored by eight different players.

5. The current tally of 34 points after 13 games matches United's best performance in the Premiership. But they will need to win this game to keep match their run in the title winning campaign of 1993-94.

6. Last posted in excess of seven successive League victories between 4 February and 9 April 2006, when nine on the trot were recorded.

7. Holding 100% records when clean sheets are kept (won seven of seven), and when scoring first in a Premiership encounter (won nine of nine). Gained seven points from a losing position - more than any other cub with the exception of Arsenal, who have also gained seven. United's came by way of victories away to Wigan and Sheffield United, and a draw at Reading).

8. One stalemate short of 1,000 draws in their League history.

9. Five goals short of conceding 500 all time in the Premier League.

10. This is the first of successive home Premiership games, with Everton visiting Old Trafford next, before a trip to Middlesbrough.

CHELSEA

Going into the weekend: 2nd 31 points

(all statistics are ahead of this weekend's round of Premiership fixtures)

1. This is Jose Mourinho's 90th Premiership match in charge of Chelsea. His record is won 68, drawn 13 and lost eight.

2. Lost one of the last 11 Premiership matches, winning nine of them.

3. The Londoners are on the longest current run in the Premiership of 13 games since failing to score.

4. They have a 100% record when holding a Premiership clean sheet, winning an unsurpassed eight games.

5. One of two clubs who have had as many as three players dismissed in Premiership competition this term. Blackburn is the other, but one of their trio of red cards was later rescinded.

6. The only club that has never been behind at half time in any top flight game this term (leading in eight, drawing in five)

7. A midweek visit to Bolton follows this, before an inactive weekend. Then, following the final Champions League group match, home to Levski Sofia, comes another titantic top-flight clash, home to Arsenal.

KEY PLAYER NOTES/POTENTIAL MILESTONES

MANCHESTER UNITED

Louis SAHA is United's leading scorer with eight League and Cup goals.

Wayne ROONEY is the club's top marksman in the Premiership with seven.

ROONEY is one shy of 50 career Premiership goals (Everton and Manchester United).

SAHA needs to score two more to bring his total for English clubs to 100.

Rio FERDINAND is the only player to have been on the field for every minute of every one of United's Premiership matches this season.

If on the field from the outset, Darren FLETCHER will be making his 100th start for the Red Devils.

CHELSEA

Frank LAMPARD needs one goal to become Chelsea's highest scoring midfield player in their history. He has scored 76 goals from 287 appearances (only two were headers), and is equal with Dennis Wise, who needed 445 games to score his 76 goals for the Blues.

If he plays, LAMPARD will be making his 200th Premiership appearance for Chelsea.

Didier DROGBA is the highest scoring Premiership player this season with 14 goals, eight of which are League goals putting him at the top of the table for the Barclays Golden Boot award. Jointly with Nwankwo KANU of Portsmouth.

If on the field from the outset, Claude MAKELELE will be making his 100th League start for the Blues.

Only Michael ESSIEN has figured in every minute of every one of Chelsea's League and Cup matches this season.

If he plays, Shaun WRIGHT-PHILLIPS will be making his 150th career Premiership appearance (Manchester City and Chelsea).

LAST SEASON'S CORRESPONDING GAME

Manchester United 1-0 Chelsea

6 November 2005 - Ref: Graham Poll

Man United scorer: Fletcher 31

HEAD TO HEAD TOTALS

Home and away

League: Man United 54 wins, Chelsea 36, Draws 38

Prem: Man United 8 wins, Chelsea 9, Draws 11

at Man United only

League: Man United 25 wins, Chelsea 17, Draws 22

Prem: Man United 4 wins, Chelsea 4, Draws 6

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Honours even at Old Trafford

Manchester United retained their precarious Premiership supremacy after an entertaining 1-1 draw against reigning champions Chelsea at Old Trafford.

The tie had been billed as the answer to where the balance of power now lies in English football after United's super start to the season, but a sometimes bruising stalemate only revealed there is precious little between the two sides - aside from three points - as the season enters the winter programme.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side struck the first blow through Louis Saha's cultured finish just before the half hour mark, but Chelsea changed the face of the game with a much improved display after half time.

It was Ricardo Carvalho who levelled matters with a thumping header to deny United their eighth Premiership win in a row, but keeping The Blues at arms length is still a crucial achievement for Ferguson after two seasons of chasing Chelsea's shadow.

The first quarter of the game boasted plenty of sound and fury, but ultimately little of significance as United just about shaded the opening exchanges in a tightly fought contest.

Wayne Rooney - having committed to a new contract on Saturday night - had the first sight of goal but his header was wayward from Ryan Giggs' lofted free-kick.

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, had seen both Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack shrug off knocks to start at Old Trafford, and the German captain was appealing in vain for a penalty after four minutes when seemingly being obstructed by both Nemanja Vidic and Gabriel Heinze from Frank Lampard's free-kick.

After such an intense build up to the tie both sides had adrenalin coursing through their systems and the game unsurprisingly witnessed a number of full-bodied challenges. However, it was a handball from Ballack that allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to launch a trademark free-kick at goal that Carlo Cudicini had to tip over.

With both defences proving as resolute as their impressive records so far this season suggested, United suddenly fashioned the opener out of nothing as a goal looked somewhat unlikely when Rooney played in Saha 20 yards from goal just before the half hour mark.

However, the French striker put his penalty miss against Celtic behind him by taking his time to measure an inch-perfect curling shot around his marker Carvalho and past Blues keeper Cudicini to send Old Trafford into raptures.

Going behind had clearly irked Drogba who responded to a hefty challenge from Heinze by using his elbow in a subsequent aerial challenge with Vidic - earning himself a yellow card from referee Howard Webb whilst sparking a heated confrontation between both sets of players.

In what remained of the first half Geremi saw a thumping effort parried clear, whilst Lampard also failed to beat Edwin van der Sar with a snapshot from the edge of the box as Chelsea attempted to battle their way back into the tie.

Mourinho reshuffled his side at the break by introducing Dutch winger Arjen Robben in place of Geremi, with Michael Essien being asked to revert to right-back as a result, but United had a great chance to add a second after 49 minutes.

When Rooney burst into the box he could have gone down to claim a penalty when having his shirt tugged by Drogba, but after staying on his feet the England star played the ball across goal and both Saha and Ronaldo failed to get the necessary contact to test Cudicini.

However, Chelsea did exert more pressure on the hosts in an markedly improved display after the break, and Andrei Shevchenko - restored to the starting line-up - should have done much better when he lifted a shot over the bar after United failed to clear on 53 minutes.

Mourinho's side began to dominate possession and surge forward, but on the break Heinze then produced a superb cross that Ronaldo chested into the path of Saha. However, the former Fulham man seemed to be put off by Terry as he completely took his eye off the ball and failed to offer a shot.

The chance was very much a brief respite from the Blue tide encroaching on the United box, with Lampard lashing a shot wide and Drogba heading off-target, and as the game opened up into an enthralling encounter both Giggs and Lampard again saw fierce shots saved at the near post.

United were unable to hold out and with just over 20 minutes to go Carvalho produced a bullet header from a Lampard corner which flew past van der Sar via the head of Saha and the underside of the crossbar.

It was no more than the reigning champions deserved given their efforts after half time, and the equaliser did little to calm the frantic pace of the game as Scholes then saw his low drive inadvertently deflected wide off Saha.

Mourinho instigated a further change by introducing Joe Cole for the ineffective Shevchenko after 75 minutes, and after Lampard fired another shot over the bar The Blues were left sweating when Ronaldo saw an effort deflected wide of the post.

From the resulting corner Vidic sparked angry protests from The Blues for a messy aerial challenge on Cudicini, and Ashley Cole replied by chopping down Ronaldo in a challenge that resulted in the Portuguese winger being taken off along with Saha - seemingly due to a hamstring problem - with Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea on in their place.

Claude Makelele went close with an unlikely volley in the dying minutes, but with neither side able to conjure up a winning goal United finished the game in the comfortable position of enjoying a three-point advantage at the top of the table.

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Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

Ricardo Carvalho's second-half header prevented leaders Manchester United from going six points clear of Chelsea.

Louis Saha gave United a first-half lead after a wonderful piece of skill, bending the ball past Carlo Cudicini.

The game developed an intriguing ebb and flow in the second half as Saha twice went close, while Frank Lampard rained in a series of shots in reply.

And Carvalho earned Chelsea that point when he powered a header past Edwin van der Sar from a Lampard corner.

If United had the better of the first half, Chelsea were well worth the draw given their impressive second-half display.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho brought on Arjen Robben for Geremi at the restart, a switch that entailed Michael Essien dropping to right-back.

The draw was the fair result, no doubt about that

That formation provided Chelsea with greater attacking fluidity, with Essien superb in the way he surged forward from his defensive position.

The highlight of the opening half was Saha's exquisite goal.

When Rooney threaded a pass through to the Frenchman, with Carvalho and John Terry providing a defensive shield for Cudicini, there seemed minimal danger.

But Saha quickly switched the ball to his left foot, before bending a shot round Carvalho and past Cudicini's outstretched hand.

Given Saha had missed a penalty in United's Champions League defeat at Celtic in midweek, the French international has wasted little time in returning to the goalscoring groove as he claimed his sixth league goal.

The game had needed that moment of inspiration because the preceding 29 minutes had been overshadowed by some rugged physical approach from both sides.

That niggly tone was set by Michael Ballack's early challenge on Ronaldo.

The German soon found himself on the receiving end as he was sandwiched between Gabriel Heinze and Nemanja Vidic.

Not that the game was played in a mean spirit - early in the second half Rooney and Carvalho, who had last met in that infamous World Cup quarter-final in the summer, could be seen sharing a joke.

Chelsea had lots of possession in the first half but with Andriy Shevchenko and Didier Drogba tightly marked by Vidic and Rio Ferdinand there best efforts came from long-range shots.

Geremi hit a waspish shot that Van der Sar beat away and the Dutch keeper had to get down quickly to save a Lampard effort.

As Robben settled to the frenetic pace of the match, Rooney's run and cross almost created a second goal for Saha, who miscued as the ball came to him quickly.

Saha had another half-chance when Heinze's cross richocheted to the Frenchman, who again was unable to get a decisive touch.

On 70 minutes Carvalho's thumping header hauled Chelsea level.

The Portuguese defender rose above Heinze to meet Lampard's corner and Saha standing on the line was unable to divert the ball to safety.

Indeed Saha's headed intervention might have taken the ball away from Van der Sar, who had thrown himself to his right to try and save Carvalho's header.

With a quarter of an hour to go the anonmyous Shevchenko was withdrawn to replaced by Joe Cole, but the change failed to yield a winner for Chelsea.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Heinze, Ronaldo (Fletcher 86), Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Saha (O'Shea 86).

Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Evra, Silvestre.

Booked: Carrick.

Goals: Saha 29.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Geremi (Robben 46), Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien, Makelele, Ballack (Ferreira 90), Lampard, Shevchenko (Joe Cole 75), Drogba.

Subs Not Used: Hilario, Boulahrouz.

Booked: Makelele, Drogba, Ashley Cole.

Goals: Carvalho 69.

Att: 75,948

Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

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What a great pity we had those two fantastic buys of the close season playing, sheveitwideoroverko & bollacks. Still with those two it evened the game out a bit.

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We were far better than Chelsea yesterday. Fact.

Bollack, the cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

Dogboy, cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

3 blatant malicious elbows on Vidic over the game and, the scything down of Ronny in the first 15 minutes.

You moan about heavy handed teams that kick into you, eg; us last season and Blackburn. Now, you play football like you did yesterday.

:o You're a fookin disgrace.

Best would've turned in his grave yesterday.

redrus

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We were far better than Chelsea yesterday. Fact.

Bollack, the cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

Dogboy, cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

3 blatant malicious elbows on Vidic over the game and, the scything down of Ronny in the first 15 minutes.

You moan about heavy handed teams that kick into you, eg; us last season and Blackburn. Now, you play football like you did yesterday.

:o You're a fookin disgrace.

Best would've turned in his grave yesterday.

redrus

Best who? he would of been too drunk to know what was going on!! its a man's game, if your players are too weak to have a good fight thats your problem, when it matters you have to dig deep and get stuck in, shows strong character and winning personalities which Jose has instilled.

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Jose: Draw better for Blues

Jose Mourinho felt a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was a much better result for Chelsea than Manchester United after the hosts protected their three point lead at the top of The Premiership.

The Red Devils had a golden chance to move six points clear of the reigning champions after Louis Saha's opener, but The Blues responded with an impressive second half display and equalised through Ricardo Carvalho's header.

A draw keeps Chelsea firmly in touch as they chase a third title in succession, and with United providing the strongest challenge to Mourinho's top-flight monopoly since his arrival in England, the Portuguese boss was happy with the point at Old Trafford.

"I think it is [a better result for Chelsea than United] because they entered this game mentally very strong and feeling it was a big, big chance for them, a chance not to lose," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"If I was in their place I would be very, very disappointed because it is a big chance at home to open the gap and they couldn't do it.

"I think they go home with the same feeling that I go, that a point is the fair result, but I think in the second half we show we are not sleeping, we are here to win again."

Mourinho was also full of praise for referee Howard Webb as he kept control of a game that threatened to boil over at times, and the enthralling nature of the contest was a good advert for English football according to the Chelsea boss.

"I think the result is fair, I think Webb did his job well," Mourinho continued.

"Maybe if you see the game on TV you see some mistakes but overall he has had a good game, and I think this is what people around the world have to see that The Premiership is the best league in the world.

"Two great teams, a lot of good players, a lot of respect and we came here to win but the draw first of all is fair."

Mourinho also reflected on the fact that the draw - which was an archetypal game of two halves - moved Chelsea ten points ahead of Arsenal after their 3-1 defeat at Bolton on Saturday

"Secondly I think it is a good result because Man United lost a big, big chance to open the lead to six points and we did well to recover in the second half," noted Mourinho.

"We won a point over Arsenal in a weekend where people could think Arsenal could close the gap, and we are not top like we want, but three points behind and three points is a weekend in the game so it was not bad for us.

"I think the game was easy to comment. In the first half Manchester United were the best team, in the second half, Chelsea was the best team.

"They scored in the first half because they were the best team, and Chelsea scored in the second half because they were the best team. For me that is obvious."

After learning that United's Michael Carrick had been named man of the match, Mourinho reacted with incredulity as he hailed the contribution of goal-scorer Carvalho who had been doubtful earlier in the week due to an ankle injury.

"Who is man of the match? I don't believe it. Carvalho was the man of the match for me, and I want to dedicate this good result to my medical department because they did an unbelievable job with Ricardo," said Mourinho.

"Ricardo was in big trouble after the last game and they did an unbelievable job with him to recover him for this match.

"Sometimes people don't remember these important people in football clubs, and I want to dedicate this result to the medical department."

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Well Red ... although it pains me to say it, I have to agree with Seapok and Jose here ... and last nights game just showed what a different class both Man U and Chelsea are in compared to the rest of the premiership but we knew that already .... :o

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We were far better than Chelsea yesterday. Fact.

Bollack, the cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

Dogboy, cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

3 blatant malicious elbows on Vidic over the game and, the scything down of Ronny in the first 15 minutes.

You moan about heavy handed teams that kick into you, eg; us last season and Blackburn. Now, you play football like you did yesterday.

:o You're a fookin disgrace.

Best would've turned in his grave yesterday.

redrus

Best who? he would of been too drunk to know what was going on!! its a man's game, if your players are too weak to have a good fight thats your problem, when it matters you have to dig deep and get stuck in, shows strong character and winning personalities which Jose has instilled.

I'm gonna disregard that flippant comment as the bloods gone to your head.

2 of your players should have walked, fact.

If you think thats a mans game you are deluded, its different when you're on the receiving end. "Awe they play too rough....!"

Elbows are not part of any game, mans or not....!

redrus

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We were far better than Chelsea yesterday. Fact.

Bollack, the cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

Dogboy, cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

3 blatant malicious elbows on Vidic over the game and, the scything down of Ronny in the first 15 minutes.

You moan about heavy handed teams that kick into you, eg; us last season and Blackburn. Now, you play football like you did yesterday.

:o You're a fookin disgrace.

Best would've turned in his grave yesterday.

redrus

And of course you being a Man U supporter didn't see two of your team holding Ballack down for a certain penalty. Trouble is refs don't give them against united at Bold Trafford. And even if you had have seen it you wouldn't mention it would you.

Although you must have seen a different game than us. In the game I watched it was dead even at half time, shots at goal, possesion & minutes of football. The second half Chelsea were by far the better team, although I must admit United maybe should have gone two or three up before we turned it on.

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Vialli backs Man Utd to win title

Former Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli has tipped Manchester United to pip the champions to the Premiership title.

Vialli says Chelsea's desire to win the Champions League could see them struggle to retain their league crown.

He told BBC Sport: "I think United are going to be slightly too strong. They look really determined to win it.

"Probably the distraction of wanting to win the Champions League will be too much for Chelsea to compete with Manchester United," Vialli added.

The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday to leave United three points clear in the title race.

"I think a draw was a fair result," Vialli added. "Manchester United were better than Chelsea in the first half and Chelsea came back strong in the second half.

Chelsea are more focused on being the best in Europe

"I think everyone will be happy with the result. Chelsea are still in contention and Manchester United are still top so both managers will be very happy with what they saw on the pitch."

But Vialli, who spent over four years with the Blues as a player and manager, believes his former club have the better chance of going all the way in Europe.

He added: "I wouldn't be surprised to see Manchester United win the Premiership and Chelsea win the Champions League.

"I think both clubs, both managers and their players would settle for this.

"Chelsea have a squad big enough with so many quality players that Jose Mourinho can rotate the team depending on whether they are playing in the Premiership or Europe, the opposition or the physical condition of his players and their squad is big enough to try to win both competitions.

"But the competition in the Premiership is stronger. Manchester United are firmly determined to win the title after a few years and Chelsea are more focused on being the best in Europe."

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Well Red ... although it pains me to say it, I have to agree with Seapok and Jose here ... and last nights game just showed what a different class both Man U and Chelsea are in compared to the rest of the premiership but we knew that already .... :o

Well done son, you know it makes sense! it was a cracking game for the neutral, end to end stuff, I always felt we would get one at some point. :D

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We were far better than Chelsea yesterday. Fact.

Bollack, the cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

Dogboy, cheatin <deleted>, should've walked.

3 blatant malicious elbows on Vidic over the game and, the scything down of Ronny in the first 15 minutes.

You moan about heavy handed teams that kick into you, eg; us last season and Blackburn. Now, you play football like you did yesterday.

:o You're a fookin disgrace.

Best would've turned in his grave yesterday.

redrus

And of course you being a Man U supporter didn't see two of your team holding Ballack down for a certain penalty. Trouble is refs don't give them against united at Bold Trafford. And even if you had have seen it you wouldn't mention it would you.

Although you must have seen a different game than us. In the game I watched it was dead even at half time, shots at goal, possesion & minutes of football. The second half Chelsea were by far the better team, although I must admit United maybe should have gone two or three up before we turned it on.

Well said Lamps, I was thinking that when Red was going off on one, I really hope it stays close and then we get them down the Brigde we stuff those northern monkeys 5-0 like before!! haha

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Vialli says Shevchenko will shine

Ex-Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli has told his old club Andriy Shevchenko will come good - amid reports the Blues want to offload the £30m striker.

Reports on Tuesday said Valencia's David Villa could be a £22m replacement for the out-of-form Shevchenko.

"I think it is quite normal when you are coming from a different country," Vialli told BBC Sport.

"I think we will soon see one of the world's top strikers in the Premiership - there are no worries about that."

Vialli made the move from Italy to England when he joined Chelsea from Juventus for £12m in 1996.

He believes Shevchenko, who has scored just three league goals this season, has been hampered by the knee injury that threatened to force him out of the World Cup.

Vialli added: "He played in Italy and had to adjust to the Italian style and now he must adjust to the English style.

"When he joined I don't think he was 100% fit, he was injured before the World Cup and he only had a very short break.

"All of these things catch up on you and you need time to get back to your best. But I think Shevchenko is working really hard."

Vialli believes Shevchenko's presence in the side has been of great benefit to strike partner Didier Drogba.

He said: "Drogba is playing so well and scoring some marvellous goals. I think this is down to him but also what Shevchenko is doing in keeping two or three defenders busy.

"It means Drogba is given more space and more ability to score. As a partnership they are working really well together and working hard for each other.

"And I don't see any jealousy which is very good for the team."

Michael Ballack, who also made a much-hyped move to Chelsea from Bayern Munich during the summer, has also not had the instant impact on the side that was expected.

Ballack (left) failed to shine in the 1-1 draw with Man Utd

But Vialli feels the German skipper has shown himself to be a real team player since arriving at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "Ballack is a very good player and I think he is doing his job for Chelsea, but when you play with so many great players it is difficult to be at the centre of attention.

"He might do things very well but it gets lost because Frank Lampard has an amazing game or John Terry is fantastic, so you have to be part of the team and this is what him and Shevchenko are doing at the moment."

Vialli has been out of management since a short spell with Watford was ended with his sacking in 2002.

He has co-authored a book, The Italian Job, which was nominated for the Sports Book of the Year award and also works as a pundit on Italian TV.

"I'm happy what I'm doing and I'm in no hurry to make a comeback," he said. "At the moment I'm not in the market.

"But if the right opportunity comes up I will think about it and perhaps take it."

Vialli has previously spoken about his destiny of one day returning to Chelsea, who he led to FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup victories.

"I would love that but Mourinho is doing a great job," he said. "He is possibly the best manager in the world, along with a few other names.

"To manage this team would be a dream come true but I don't see it happening. But if they call me I'm available!"

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Cole offers Sheva backing

Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has come out to defend misfiring team-mate Andrei Shevchenko, with the Ukrainian having come under increased pressure following another disappointing display at the weekend.

The former Milan hit-man has struggled to capture anything like his top form at the champions and again, on Sunday, he flattered to deceive against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Shevchenko, who arrived in West London in the summer with a hefty £30 million price tag, was eventually substituted in a second period that saw Chelsea eke out a point through Ricardo Carvalho's header.

Whilst he undoubtedly has had his detractors, Cole has been quick to rally round and offer support to a player he is convinced will eventually show his class.

"I think he's done well," Cole told the Daily Star. "He's come here with massive expectation because he cost £30 million and has been the best striker in Europe for a long time.

"People expect him to be scoring hat-tricks every game, but as a footballer you are not a machine, you are not a robot.

"For me he's done a good job. He's scored five goals and he's only going to get better.

"I think he's going to bang in loads of goals for Chelsea, that's for sure."

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