Chelsea vs Manchester United: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can make a positive impact when Chelsea and Manchester United lock horns at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

An action-packed Gameweek 31 will culminate on Thursday with two matches. Chelsea and Manchester United will bring the curtains down on the latest round of fixtures, with the two struggling behemoths locking horns at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea would have hoped for better times under Mauricio Pochettino after a horrendous 2022/23 season. However, another mid-table finish is staring at the West London club, with the Argentine tactician failing to galvanise the squad. However, recent outings have provided cause for optimism, with the Blues embarking on a six-match unbeaten run.

As for Manchester United, they continue to struggle to build a long winning run. The Red Devils began 2024 with an unbeaten streak that stretched for several weeks before losing back-to-back Premier League games against Fulham and Manchester City. Since then, they have not been on the wrong end of a result but have not looked convincing either.

Meanwhile, recent meetings between Chelsea and Manchester United have favoured the latter, although several clashes have ended on level terms. And despite their struggles, Thursday’s tie is a big game for the two sides. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly influence this marquee fixture this midweek.

Rasmus Hojlund

We have concentrated on making these features primarily attack-minded in our recent offerings. That theme continues today, with all three candidates making their mark in the final third. We kick things off with Manchester United striker Rasmus Hojlund.

The Danish international looked unstoppable before picking up a hamstring injury in February, with Manchester United struggling in his absence. Hojlund had also broken the record for being the youngest player to score in six consecutive Premier League games.

However, the young striker has struggled to stamp his authority since returning to action a few weeks ago. He has failed to find the back of the net in both outings, although he posed some threat against Liverpool when Manchester United locked horns with the Reds in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Hojlund will be itching to rediscover his scoring boots while hoping to produce his hold-up play and booming runs that trouble the opposition defenders. If that happens, we might see another scoring streak beginning when Manchester United take on Chelsea on Thursday at Stamford Bridge.

Cole Palmer

We continue our list with Chelsea’s standout player this season amid the inconsistencies surrounding the West London club. We are talking about Cole Palmer, a rare bright spot in Chelsea’s blow-hot-blow-cold campaign.

The 21-year-old had no shortage of sceptics questioning the hefty transfer fee Chelsea had shelled out to sign him from Manchester City last summer. The cynicism had some base, considering the big-money flops that Chelsea had accumulated before Palmer set foot in Stamford Bridge.

However, the Englishman has been a rare bang for the buck signing for Chelsea, stamping his authority at the West London club. He has an exceptional tally of 18 goals and 12 assists in 38 performances across all competitions.

Meanwhile, Palmer’s exploits for Chelsea have made him the subject of interest from several high-profile clubs, including Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. However, a new contract might be on the cards for him, while he will be focused on the job at hand on Thursday, as the Blues look to overturn their winless run against the Red Devils

Marcus Rashford

We go from one player who has outperformed his teammates this season to someone who had done so in the 2022/23 campaign. However, those masterful displays have been nowhere to be seen this term. We are talking about Marcus Rashford.

Rashford should have built on scoring in Manchester United’s comeback win over Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-final. However, that has not happened, and he looked sub-par when the Red Devils faced Brentford in the Premier League this past weekend.

So, the Englishman will be eager to make amends and return to scoring ways this weekend. With Chelsea showcasing a soft underbelly despite the best efforts of the defenders, the Manchester United talisman from 2022/23 should make himself count. Expect a rare hard-working display by Rashford as he looks to rediscover his best form in the business end of the 2023/24 campaign.

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