six forthcoming away games in just seven fixtures.
Opposition boss: Following the dismissal of Andre Villas Boas last March, Chelsea steadied the ship by appointing club legend Roberto Di Matteo as interim manager. The Italian made a remarkable start, quietly working towards victory in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals, leading to his appointment as full-time boss in the summer. Since then, the Italian has revolutionized the now European champions, adopting a fresh energy and more fluid attacking ethos – a bold move aided by marquee signings Eden Hazard and Emboaba Oscar.
Star man: Juan Mata, Chelsea fans’ Player of the Season in 2011/12, is one third of a fluent, interchangeable midfield trident alongside diminutive inventors Hazard and Oscar. Charged with creation, the Spaniard is a phenomenal attacking force for the Blues, regularly cutting inside from the right with a view to utilising a cultured left foot. “I like playing with Oscar and Eden, as they’re like me,” says Mata. “We understand each other very well but we can improve.”
Quote/unquote: “I think the manager has been good at rotating the squad over the years. He always seems to get it right. Whereas Chelsea always seem to play a full-strength squad in most games so it may give us a wee bit of advantage going into the game.” - Jonny Evans.
Sub-plots: Rio Ferdinand faces Ashley Cole for the first time since the Chelsea man gave evidence in support of team-mate John Terry, who was deemed to have abused brother Anton Ferdinand last season. On Thursday, the Mirror claimed Rio will shake hands with both Cole and Terry.
Whistle blower: Mark Clattenburg will referee this encounter, almost a year to the day since the Tyne & Wear-based official last took charge of United in the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City. This season, Clattenburg has dished out 24 yellow and two red cards in just six league fixtures.