Inevitably Thibaut Courtois will start in goal – he has been spectacular for us this season and a high pressure game against such a big team will be exactly the environment he will thrive in. He played against Manchester United in the first game against them but since October 2014 he will have had ample time to gel with the team and his confidence will have grown significantly. Sorry, Cech.
Our defence will be a big part of the game as typically we will approach this game with a “park the bus” mentality. This means in central defence we have to play stalwart Blues John Terry and Gary Cahill. There will be arguments for Kurt Zouma to take the place of Cahill but no amount of natural talent can prepare you for the giant pressure and experience needed to keep out Manchester United. Zouma will be on the bench ready to step in, but I think Mourinho trusts Cahill in a way that the fans forget.
Flanking the central defence will surely fall to Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta. Azpi’s clever runs and Ivanovic’s brute determination will be key in our game plan. These two are able to put in a hard shift in defence but also create chances and help move the ball forward, in a way that cannot be replicated by replacements.
In midfield we should see Nemanja Matic and nose-mask-wearing Cesc Fabregas. Matic is a very important player for us this season and we struggled in his absence – Cesc is important too but seems not to shine as much without Diego Costa to receive his assists. Fabregas and Costa have a brilliant relationship and without Costa there is need for more communication with other potential receivers of the ball, whereas Costa and Fabregas just seem to link up seamlessly. This being said, Fabregas was the provider of the winning goal against QPR last weekend so maybe he will score for us against Manchester United. I imagine he will be targeted for jeers thanks to his days at Arsenal.
Attacking midfield is perhaps where we have the biggest surplus of players. Hazard and Willian should start, but the question is who to fill the extra gap with. I think it will fall to Oscar as his pace and skill should be a fair match for Manchester United. Usually as he is quite a small player he is not suitable against big violent teams like Stoke or QPR but United are all about tactical finesse so he should be fine. Juan Cuadrado will have to wait to start a game as he is just not ready for Manchester United yet.
Up front I believe Remy will start. There have been rumours about his potential injury but this reads M-I-N-D G-A-M-E to me so he will start – no problem. Other than that we only have Didier Drogba. No offence to Drogba but I think even he will not trust himself to lead the attack against Manchester United. We do have other players that score goals and may have to resort to a false-9 situation.
We have a small squad and this could be tested if any injuries occur during the game, but to me this is a top starting 11 and with a bit of hard work will be able to see off Manchester United.