Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford feels a win for the team on Sunday on Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea “could set us up for the rest of the season”.
Mourinho’s United go into the Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge having recovered from three straight losses in all competitions last month by putting together an unbeaten run that extended to six matches with Thursday’s 4-1 Europa League win over Fenerbahce.
Their last league outing, Monday’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool, left them seventh in the table with 14 points from eight games, two places and two points behind Chelsea.
And Rashford told MUTV: “If we can go there, produce a good team performance and hopefully get the three points, that will give us a good boost and could set us up for the rest of the season.”
On Monday United did a very good job of limiting their hosts’ attacking threat.
Particularly early on in a game that saw them show impressive defensive discipline throughout, Mourinho’s men stifled Liverpool’s usual high press with a pressing strategy of their own.
United, who had only 35 per cent possession, also created very few chances, and Rashford has acknowledged the importance of trying to have “the freedom to play” as well as keeping opponents subdued.
But the 18-year-old England international feels a similar “attitude” to that which they had at Anfield will serve the Red Devils well on Sunday.
“You never know how the game is going to be until you get out there but I think it’s important we get into the game and start fast,” he said.
“That’s what we did against Liverpool – we got into their faces and showed we weren’t going to be pushed around, and we need to go there with a similar attitude. The bigger the games are, the better for us.
“We have to try to keep them quiet and give ourselves the freedom to play as well, but it’s a difficult thing to do, especially away from home, so we have to have the same mentality and mindset as we did at Anfield.
“In these games, it’s a lot to do with one-v-ones and, if you get the better of your opponent, maybe you get the better of the game; that could be the situation on Sunday, so I think we have to work hard individually and collectively to get a result.”
Sunday’s game will be Mourinho’s first match at Chelsea since his second spell as Blues manager came to an end in December.
While he was subsequently appointed as United boss over the summer, the west London club also brought in a new manager in Antonio Conte.
Conte’s side have had a revival in results themselves of late, bouncing back from two straight league defeats by beating Hull and then champions Leicester.
And Rashford sees the two clubs as being very comparable at the moment.
He said: “They have a very strong squad.
“They’ve been a bit up and down but the manager has got them in a good shape and structure, and I think they’ve got a good plan of where they want to be.
“I think they’re in a similar situation as us.”
Conte believes the visit of Mourinho’s men is a timely one for Chelsea.
After chastening defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool last month, Conte feels his Blues are ready following wins over Hull and Premier League champions Leicester.
Conte said: “I think that it arrives at the right moment for us. It’s important to continue this way. The last game we beat a good team that last season won the title and this was important.
“On Sunday we face another great team. I want to see progress compared to Liverpool and Arsenal.
“I am confident about this. I saw fantastic commitment this week.”
Mourinho left Chelsea for a second time last December, just seven months after winning his third Premier League title. He was appointed United boss in May.
The Portuguese has at times in his career been criticised for a defensive mindset and coined the phrase ‘park the bus’, to describe rearguard tactics.
And Mourinho was again under fire following United’s goalless draw at Anfield on Monday.
Conte reckons there is a duty to entertain, admitting some victories earlier in his career have been unfulfilling.
“It’s important to win in the right way,” Conte added. “We won in the past with the other clubs but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance.
“To win is important but it’s important also to play good football, to play with good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion.
“I try and transfer these thoughts to my players always.”