Chelsea's explosive start to the campaign seems like a distant memory with the London club now sitting 15 points beneath United. It's a fixture many thought would be one of the most important of the season. Now, United's main objective will be to not allow Arsenal to gain ground at the summit of the Premier League.
Tonight's re-arranged meeting may have lost its head-to-head edge, but such a game between two of the worlds biggest clubs is always an exciting prospect. It promises to be a tightly-fought contest, with United's explosive attacking forces going up against the leagues most resilient defence. We thought we'd take a look at the key battles that will take place at Stamford Bridge tonight...
Both managers have key decisions to make ahead of tonight's clash. Big games like this always bring hope of an explosive match but we're unlikely to see an open, end-to-end contest. Ancelotti's biggest decision will be whether or not to return Didier Drogba to his starting XI or stick with Torres and Anelka. Luckily for Ferguson, Wayne Rooney is available after escaping any FA punishment for his weekend actions.
Nemanja Vidic (Puma PowerCat) has been the heartbeat of Uniteds defence all season with solid performances that were one of the key reasons for the clubs exceptional 29-match unbeaten run. Tonight, the Serbian defender comes up against a striker he is all too familiar with. Fernando Torres (Nike Laser III) consistently terrorized Nemanja Vidic during his Liverpool days, with unplayable performances that saw Vidic see three consecutive red cards in United vs Liverpool matches! Few strikers across Europe have given United's Vidic as many headaches in recent seasons.
We've seen Rooney (Nike Laser III) cause John Terry problems before by cutting inside and dragging Terry out of position. Rooney's pace and movement will see him move in from the left throughout the match, potentially causing problems for the Chelsea skipper. Rooney will be expected to make decisive runs, enabling Dimitar Berbatov to find the space in behind the Chelsea defence. Although Rooney hasn't been on the score sheet as much as he would like, Terry (Umbro Speciali) will have to be wary of Rooney's ability to create chances for his strike partner. Terry will definitely have his work cut out.
The wide players in this fixture will play a vital role in the match. With both sides looking to pack the central area of the pitch, Nani (adidas adiZero) and Ashley's Cole's advances will hold extra importance for creating chances. With Ashley Cole (Nike CTR360) being as effective going forward as he is defensively, Nani will have to put in a decent defensive shift as well as being one of United's main attacking outlets. Nani has pace in abundance which will be a worry for Cole as he looks to offer his attacking services down the left. Both players will need to be equally alert to each others threats.
Both Michael Essien (Nike CTR360) and Darren Fletcher will be expected to play similar roles tonight. United always seem to utilise Fletcher (adidas adiPURE IV) in the big matches because of his ability to break up play. Tonight's match will come down to what team controls the midfield. Essien will be expected to break up any of United's attacking threat coming through the middle. He has the ability to hound the opponent's play-maker in-front of his own box whilst offering more of an attacking threat than his Untied counterpart. Both players will have a big say in how the match is dictated.
When it comes to games like this, everyone has an opinion and we'd love to hear yours. What do you think the outcome of tonight's match will be?