If you were not already aware, Chelsea versus Manchester United is a pretty big deal, so strap in for this week’s wild connections profile.
Blues against red; London against Manchester; old rivals with new beginnings. Chelsea and Manchester United’s constant squabbling for supremacy has conjured up a derby for the ages and a timeless battle of two footballing rulers who have since lost their kingdoms to neighboring armies. Saturday marks the 189th competitive encounter between the Blues and the Red Devils, a fixture that is very much about firsts and lasts. For Frank Lampard especially, his maiden game as Chelsea manager began with a 4-0 defeat away to United on the Premier League’s curtain-raiser of 2019/20.
Jose Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge debut got off to a far better start, scrapping past Sir Alex Ferguson’s side 1-0 on the 15th August 2004, foreshadowing Chelsea’s supremacy over the country’s elite. He fared considerably worse when returning to west London in 2016, draping the colors of United as its new boss, having been sacked by Chelsea 12 months prior. The Special One’s comeback tour was swiftly canceled by four goals from the hosts, Pedro scoring with just 30 seconds on the clock.
Chelsea and United also played out the very first bout at the new Wembley stadium, befittingly, the 2007 FA Cup Final. After slogging back and forth all afternoon, Didier Drogba’s decisive finish concluded the tie late into extra-time, a confirmation of his status as the big player for the big occasion. The pair would go at it again 11 years down the line in the same settings for the same prize, and with the same scoreline. Eden Hazard’s penalty was enough for the Blues to claim their eighth FA Cup winners medal. Ironically, this would be Antonio Conte’s final farewell in the Chelsea dugout, the Italian sacked shortly after in place of his fellow countryman, Maurizio Sarri.
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Titles and trophies have always been the holy grail for two of the three (including Manchester City) most successful clubs over the past decade. On a handful of occasions, the league has been swung towards Chelsea or United thanks to victory over the other.
Mourinho sealed his second successive Premier League in 2006, aware that just a point against United would be enough to crown his Blues champions. Goals from unconventional scorers William Gallas and Ricardo Carvalho, plus a stunning solo strike from Joe Cole, cruised the Blues to three points, prompting a party at the Bridge.
Fast forward to 2010, and the division was again balanced by a knife-edge. Chelsea, now under Carlo Ancelotti’s leadership, traveled to Old Trafford just a point behind Ferguson’s United. Cole was once more on the scoresheet, and with ten minutes remaining, Drogba drove home the winner in somewhat contentious circumstances. The substitute was seen to be offside when taking his shot, although, VAR had yet to rear its ugly head to the goal stood. Chelsea leapfrogged into first place with five games to spare, a position it would maintain until the end of the campaign. United did gain revenge a year after its upsetting loss, beating the Blues 2-1 to move within a point of their 19th league title with two matches left in the tank. Whilst the Stretford End sang Ferguson’s name, Ancelotti rushed down the tunnel, uncertainty about his future (he was sacked 13 days later).
Who could forget the 2008 Champions League final, that had every ingredient required from domestic football’s ultimate reward? Goals from two of the greatest of their generation—Lampard and Cristiano Ronaldo—red cards in the rain, Drogba’s indefensible slap on Nemanja Vidic, penalty shoot-out saves and misses, Petr Cech denying Ronaldo from the spot, John Terry’s smashing of the post and Edwin Van der Saar’s winning push, ensuring United was Europe’s conqueror.
Although he featured for virtually every major top on the continent, Anelka did not cross the Chelsea-United divide like many before him. Some have been hits: Ray Wilkins, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Mark Hughes, to name a few. However, some have been major flops: Radamel Falcao and Juan Sebastian Veron come to mind. Finally, some have succeeded at one, but not the other: Mark Bosnich, Paul Parker, Romelu Lukaku and George Graham. However hard they try to trick you into thinking they despise each other, Chelsea and Manchester United could not exist without the relentless rivalry. Long may that continue.
What is your favorite Chelsea vs. Manchester United moment? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!