But with Chelsea closer to the relegation zone than a European place and Manchester United in the midst of a four-game losing streak the game today has taken on even more significance.
Media reports today suggest that Louis van Gaal has twice tried to walk away from the Manchester United job but has been talked out of it by United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. United have not lost five straight in all competitions in 79 years, but surely a defeat at home to Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea will mark the end of van Gaal’s Old Trafford career.
And the United boss does not seem confident that his side can get a win against Chelsea saying after the defeat at Stoke on Boxing Day:
‘It’s very difficult,’ he said. ‘It’s very difficult, because we have to recover and we have to prepare also for the game. It’s very tough to do that, I’m aware of that.’
‘When you lose four matches in a row, the pressure of the environment increases. So it is much more difficult. There are no ways, artificial ways, to solve that. We need a victory and that’s very important.’
It’s a case of when van Gaal gets fired not if he gets fired, which leads to the next question; who replaces him?
The availability of Jose Mourinho has muddled the waters as United did not expect one of the three best managers in the world, along with Guardiola and Ancelotti, to be available. Bring in Mourinho and United will guarantee themselves European football next season, and possibly a trophy via the cup.
But Mourinho is a short-term fix and the newspapers this morning have been carrying the story that Sir Alex Ferguson is willing to come out of retirement to help United legend Ryan Giggs take over from van Gaal. If true that is a combination that the United board could not turn down.
I don’t think that a win against Chelsea automatically saves van Gaal’s job. He might resign anyway so that he leaves with a win rather than a lose.
The big decision for the United board is whether to go with Mourinho or the Giggs/Ferguson combo. Is that even a choice?