LONDON, England, August 26- For his first competitive home game as Manchester United manager, David Moyes could be forgiven for wishing the fixture computer had not spat out a game against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Not only have Chelsea improved their formidable squad during the close season and started the new campaign with back-to-back wins, but in Mourinho they boast a coach who has a history of upsetting United’s best-laid plans.
It was Mourinho who led Porto to a sensational success at Old Trafford in 2004, Mourinho who momentarily knocked United off their pedestal in his first stint at Chelsea, and Mourinho who guided Real Madrid to a smash-and-grab win over United in last season’s Champions League.
He was also, briefly, touted as a possible successor to Alex Ferguson as manager of the English champions, before United plumped for tradition over razzmatazz and went for the comparatively untested Moyes.
The former Everton manager saw his new side run out convincing 4-1 winners at Swansea City in their opening Premier League game last weekend, but Monday’s match is unlikely to be quite so straightforward.
Chelsea already have two wins behind them — Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa having been brought forward due to the London club’s involvement in the UEFA Super Cup — and they can move six points clear of United with a win at Old Trafford.
Moyes, though, is relishing the challenge.
“There have been a lot of things I have been looking forward to: taking the team on tour, leading them out at Wembley,” he said.
“But to do it at Old Trafford for the first game against Chelsea is a thrill for me, it really is.”
The television cameramen at Old Trafford will be primed for the slightest hint of bonhomie between Mourinho and Wayne Rooney, who has been the subject of two failed bids from Chelsea in recent weeks.
Mourinho promised not to make a third offer for the unsettled striker prior to Monday’s game, but it will undoubtedly make for the most intriguing sub-plot of the evening.
Moyes says there is a “good chance” he will hand a starting berth to his wayward number 10, who created two goals at Swansea but whose body language suggested he would have preferred to be elsewhere.
However, the Scot’s options are restricted by injuries to three of his attacking players.
Wingers Ashley Young (ankle) and Nani (groin) and striker Javier Hernandez (hamstring) are all set to miss the game, along with right-back Rafael da Silva, who damaged his hamstring in the Community Shield.
Centre-back David Luiz (hamstring) is Chelsea’s only major injury doubt, but Mourinho may look to rotate his squad in light of Wednesday’s hard-fought win over Villa at Stamford Bridge.
In particular, Romelu Lukaku will hope that it is his turn to start up front, after Mourinho selected Fernando Torres for the opening 2-0 win over Hull City before turning to Demba Ba against Villa.
Mourinho has made it apparent that he remains determined to add Rooney to his pool of frontmen, but he was reluctant to discuss his interest in the 27-year-old ahead of the game.
“I don’t care. In this moment I don’t care,” he said. “I have a big match to play on Monday. I don’t care about new players.”
Although he spent six years away from English football during his time at Inter Milan and Madrid, Mourinho says that United remain the team to beat.
“In my time they had Roy Keane, (Paul) Scholes, players with big history there,” he said.
“Now they have still players from my time, like (Rio) Ferdinand, (Nemanja) Vidic, (Ryan) Giggs, and they have this always mixed with very good young players.
“With that winning culture, that makes the basis of big clubs. And they are a big club for many, many years. They have everything.”
Chelsea won twice at United in Mourinho’s first spell at the club, and United have prevailed only once in the last six encounters between the sides.