October 23, 2016, JM-Day at Stamford Bridge. As Jose Mourinho mused in his Sky Sports interview, "the computer has decided it is to go now; and here we go."
A momentous occasion, that's been underplayed and overplayed all at the same time. It's just another match, just another three points up for grabs. Just another chance for Chelsea to maintain new-found momentum. Another chance to work and improve and fight under Conte and build for a better future.
And yet, it's Chelsea's greatest ever manager, twice sacked forever bitter, coming back to hallowed ground, to the place where he's managed the longest and won the most. Sure, he'd been back once before, with Inter Milan in 2010, but now it's with another Premier League side, a Premier League rival in fact and one of our biggest — since Mourinho first stepped onto the English scene, the only team who've won the title more times than Chelsea (4) are United (5).
There are plenty of other minor storylines (former teammates David Luiz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic square off; Pogba faces the coach who helped him grow into the world's most expensive transfer; plus there's Juan Mata, too), but Mourinho dominates, as he always does.
It's a battle for all the emotions and all the shared history. And yet it's still just one game.
Date / Time: Sunday, October 23, 2016, 16:00 BST; 11am EDT; 8:30pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Martin Atkinson — this will be the 39th Chelsea game of Atkinson's career, pulling him level with Howard Webb and Steve Bennett. Chelsea have only lost 5 times with Atkinson in charge, although one of those was the 2-1 loss to Liverpool at home earlier this season. Atkinson has refereed this exact same fixture twice in his career, Ancelotti's Chelsea winning both times (2-1 in 2010-11 and 1-0 in 2009-10).
Forecast: A brisk, breezy fall afternoon.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports 4 / Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra; Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports (India)
Chelsea team news: It's in with the new and out with the old in many respects at Chelsea. Former key players Cesc Fàbregas and Branislav Ivanović continue to miss time with unspecified minor injuries. Former key player John Terry is supposedly fit, but isn't likely to make it past the bench. The new hotness is the 3-4-3, with wing-backs Victor Moses (!) and Marcos Alonso impressing in the last two games. The previously error prone defense has looked far more solid in a three-man configuration, and even Matić has become useful once again. He in fact leads the team in assists, and it's not even close.
Chelsea's leader in assists: Nemanja Matić. And it's not even close! pic.twitter.com/IO3mVWUAsI— Dávid Pásztor (@D_Peezy) October 18, 2016
Up front, Diego Costa (who's miraculously avoided a fifth yellow in three straight games to make himself available for this one) has been synonymous with goals and Eden Hazard, while inconsistent, has been showing signs of life. Two of the three players once brandished the "rats" on that infamous banner now will look to put the hurt on Mourinho.
After losing two in a row in the season's first bad moment, Conte's new tactics have resulted in back-to-back clean sheets and back-to-back wins. Chelsea sit fifth, with a chance to keep pace with the rest of the title contenders with a win.
Manchester United team news: With just four wins from eight games so far this season, seventh place United perhaps need a win even more than Chelsea. (All the more reason Chelsea must win this one!) After winning his first three league games in charge, Mourinho has only one win in his last five.
Opta: no team that was outside the top five after eight Premier League matches has gone on to win the Premier League [CFC 5th Utd 7th]— Sid Celery (@sidcelery) October 21, 2016
Club captain Wayne Rooney will miss out due to a muscular injury, while unloved Henrikh Mkhitaryan continues in his Juan Mata role. The real Juan Mata meanwhile could see action from the start, starting behind the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For more on Mourinho's United, be sure to check out Rob's opposition analysis.
Given all the hype, all the build-up, all the narratives, and all the emotions, this match probably has no chance of living up to expectations. As long as Chelsea win, that'll be just fine by us.
View from the enemy: The Busby Babe
Previously: Last time we faced a 7th-placed Manchester United side...