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Challenges facing Manchester United and Chelsea as they try to turn things around

At the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow 11 years ago, Manchester United and Chelsea had reached the summit of European football.

After battling it out at the top of the domestic table for nine months, the two met in a tense Champions League final that United would go on to win on penalties.

Now just over a decade later both clubs are in turmoil and seriously at risk of missing out on Europe’s top table all together. Before their clash at Old Trafford on Sunday, Sportsmail assesses the challenges facing both as they bid to turn things around.

Manchester United and Chelsea had reached the summit of European football 11 years ago

The two met in a tense Champions League final that United would go on to win on penalties

The two met in a tense Champions League final that United would go on to win on penalties

Under-fire managers

It is no coincidence that both clubs are struggling when they have had years of instability in the dug out.

Maurizio Sarri became the latest pawn to take over at Chelsea last summer and it already seems like he has one foot out the door. The Italian has struggled to win the Blues fans over with his ‘Sarri-ball’ style during his first season and his stay may be cut short if his woes as boss continue.

Jose Mourinho’s abysmal reign at Manchester United finally ended in December and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned things around so dramatically as caretaker that he was hastily given the reigns on a full-time basis.

Since that announcement though United have embarked on a woeful run of form, including two heavy defeats to Everton and Manchester City in their last two games.

Recent reports claim Solskjaer has lost the backing of his players already but there is no doubt that he will still be in charge next season.

Maurizio Sarri has struggled to win the Blues fans over and looks set to leave this summer

Maurizio Sarri has struggled to win the Blues fans over and looks set to leave this summer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned things around but United are currently on a woeful run of form

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned things around but United are currently on a woeful run of form

Ownership

There have been questions raised over Roman Abramovich’s commitment to Chelsea, given the Russian billionaire has not watched a game at Stamford Bridge since May last year when he was denied a visa. 

Concern arose after club accounts revealed that Abramovich had given up his director’s box at Stamford Bridge. He has spent at least £1million on corporate hospitality boxes every year since 2011, but didn’t renew his purchases for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The Blues have held talks with three interested parties over the potential £2.5bn sale of the club and it will be interesting to see if Abramovich cashes in while there is so much rebuilding to be done.

There have been questions raised over Roman Abramovich's commitment to Chelsea

There have been questions raised over Roman Abramovich’s commitment to Chelsea

Ed Woodward has been given a huge amount of power at United by Avram Glazer and family

Ed Woodward has been given a huge amount of power at United by Avram Glazer and family

United’s owners have also taken a very hands off approach and leave most of the commercial and football decisions to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who has too often been exposed in his football dealings. 

It is fair to say that if the Glazers cared as much about football results as they do about financial results, Woodward would have been shown the door by now.

There is a desperate need at Old Trafford for someone who knows the game well, a director of football for example, to rip up the current recruitment structure and start again. 

Lack of leaders

The most obvious difference between the current crop and the teams of 2008 is the calibre and experience of their players.

United boasted Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Edwin Van der Sar while Chelsea could call on John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack on that evening in Moscow.

Now Ashley Young and Cesar Azpilicueta are their respective captains. There is a huge leadership void in both dressing rooms and that often leads to a lack of disharmony and cohesion. 

Ashley Young is Manchester United captain and there is a huge leadership void at the club

Ashley Young is Manchester United captain and there is a huge leadership void at the club

That also spills out onto the pitch. Neither side has a fear factor about them anymore and clubs go to Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford thinking they can get something.

Both clubs need to restore that sense of intimidation that visiting teams used to have when Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho were in their prime. 

Star players have uncertain future

While there is clearly a need for United to spend big this summer and overhaul their squad, it remains vital that they tie down some of their key players.

David De Gea only has one more year left on his contract, Paul Pogba appears to be keen on leaving the club once again, Marcus Rashford is flirting heavily with Barcelona and Romelu Lukaku appears to want a move to Italy.

The fee Pogba could command may prove attractive to Solskjaer if he deems the money to spend on new players outweighs the Frenchman’s quality and influence. De Gea, although he made some errors recently, remains United’s best player and Rashford, as the future of the club, must be tied down to new terms. 

Marcus Rashford is flirting heavily with Barcelona and they can't afford to lose star players

Marcus Rashford is flirting heavily with Barcelona and they can’t afford to lose star players

Eden Hazard is finally expected to complete a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season

Eden Hazard is finally expected to complete a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season

Hazard is Real Madrid’s main target and the 28-year-old has long been linked with the Spanish giants, with a move likely to finally go through at the end of the season.

Reports suggest Real have offered Hazard a weekly wage of £400,000 after tax, which equates to more than £20m per year.

Hazard has been Chelsea’s main man this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting another 13 in 34 Premier League appearances and he will obviously be a substantial loss when he goes.  

Transfers

Both have failed to address the major issues plaguing their squads in recent transfer windows.

United have been calling out for a new elite centre back since Vidic and Ferdinand left but have recruited average defenders that have papered over the cracks.

Solskjaer is expected to be given a £200m war-chest this summer and could raise even more funds if he chooses to sell Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba.

United have been calling out for new defenders since Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left

United have been calling out for new defenders since Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left

Gonzalo Higuain will return to Italy once his loan is complete after failing to impress up front

Gonzalo Higuain will return to Italy once his loan is complete after failing to impress up front

Chelsea, meanwhile, have still not found a suitable replacement to Diego Costa at front with Gonzalo Higuain expected to return to Italy once his loan is complete.

The arrival of Christian Pulisic is exciting but the fear of potentially losing Hazard to Real Madrid is fast-becoming a reality, especially if they don’t finish in the top four.

Chaos in the manager’s seat will not be attractive to potential signings, as it proved last summer, so they need to sort out Sarri’s future as soon as possible and then plan for the transfer window accordingly. The club’s lingering transfer ban will also provide huge cause for concern.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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