Manchester United-Chelsea battles

As Manchester United and Chelsea prepare for another battle, Top Tenner examines some of the greatest duels between the Red Devils and the Blues. TKTG brings the best of these battles:

Manchester United v Chelsea - UEFA Champions League Final

9 — Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, August 2004 

Two games that book ended the 2004/05 season and provided confirmation of a new force in English football. When Jose Mourinho landed in England, he was lost in a sea of soundbites and swooning journalists, not to mention hugely expensive players — so to an extent, the question of him winning football matches was almost lost. However, his first league game in charge was against United, and Mourinho’s Chelsea provided a signal that the new boy meant business, although the depleted nature of the United team (Roy Keane in central defence, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Liam Miller in the side at all) meant that judgement was reserved, for a short while…

8 — Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea, May 2005

However, nine months later that judgement had been made, and Chelsea were already champions, having clinched the Premier League a couple of weeks before visiting Old Trafford. United applauded them onto the field, and once there, Chelsea outclassed their opponents, despite an early Ruud van Nistelrooy goal giving United the lead. Tiago, Joe Cole and a delightful lifted finish by Eidur Gudjohnsen gave Chelsea the win and a flourish on their victory lap.

7 — Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United, Premier League, 2012

One for the comeback files, this. Chelsea presumably thought they had the game in the bag after a Jonny Evans own goal, a Juan Mata volley and a David Luiz header put them 3-0 by the 50 minute mark, but United stormed back. Wayne Rooney converted a pair of penalties, the second of which then-Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas described as “very, very dubious” and suggested referee Howard Webb was evening decisions out from earlier in the game. As an aside, Rio Ferdinand was booed throughout, this being his first visit to Stamford Bridge since John Terry was charged with racially abusing his brother Anton, thus removing the Chelsea defender from the England captaincy.

4 — Chelsea 5-4 Manchester United, League Cup, 2012

More goals! Goals! Goals! This is cheating slightly because the teams were allowed an extra 30 minutes in which to score these goals, but this was a topsy-turvey tie indeed. Ryan Giggs gave United the lead, only to be pegged back by a David Luiz penalty. Javier Hernandez scored United’s second, then Gary Cahill replied, only for Nani to put United ahead for a third time before the hour mark. Thus it stayed until Eden Hazard converted a penalty in the 90th minute, taking it into extra-time, where Daniel Sturridge and Ramires won the encounter for Chelsea, but not before Giggs tucked away the third penalty of the match. For a competition that lies well down the list of priorities for both sides, this was quite the entertaining affair.

3 — Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United, Premier League, 1999 

Like in 1968, Chelsea faced the European Champions early in the season. And like in 1968, they absolutely pulverised them. United fans will remember with a shudder Massimo Taibi’s mercifully brief time between their sticks in 1999, one of a long line of unfortunates that failed to adequately replace Peter Schmeichel. His fumble against Southampton is perhaps his best known addition to the slapstick canon, but this game was his masterpiece. From his frantic charge and flail to allow Gus Poyet to head into an untended goal in the first minute, to his weak shovel out for Poyet’s second, to being nutmegged by Jody Morris (Jody Morris!), it was all there. Additional points; this was one of only four games Taibi played for United; it ended a 29-match unbeaten run in all competitions that stretched back to the previous December; this game featured the only league goal Chris Sutton scored for Chelsea, after his 10 million pound move from Blackburn.

1 — Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United (5-6 on penalties), Champions League final, 2008

Schadenfreude is, in truth, a pretty ugly thing. It’s doesn’t really say anything good about a person that you could find someone else’s misfortune quite so funny. In a world crammed with negativity, celebrating that negativity surely cannot really be a good thing. Nevertheless, no matter what misery exists in our lives, no matter what fate brings us, no matter how low a person gets, we all know that we will always have John Terry slipping over in the penalty shootout of the 2008 Champions League final to cheer us up. Oh, and then crying. And even if you’re a Chelsea fan, and you need something to cling onto from that night, Cristiano Ronaldo missed too.

Because that penalty shootout is the defining image from the game, it’s easy to forget the rest of it. There was the staging in a somewhat ‘awkward’ place for two English teams, which actually resulted in a couple of hundred Chelsea fans missing the game entirely after their flight was cancelled, plus all the assorted visa issues and so forth. There was the fascinating tactical battle, which saw Sir Alex Ferguson pick Owen Hargreaves on the right of midfield, in part to combat Ashley Cole’s runs forward from left-back. There was Didier Drogba’s brainless sending off — brainless for two reasons. Firstly because his (relatively minor) misdemeanour took place about three feet in front of both the referee and linesman, secondly because that misdemeanour was to slap Nemanja Vidic, about the last person it is advisable to annoy in football.

You could argue that Ferguson would not have retired a happy man were it not for this final. He always viewed just a single Champions League win for a side like United as something of a failure, and even though two in 18 attempts is perhaps the hole one can pick in his record at Old Trafford, it at least allowed him some satisfaction that he had conquered Europe twice. And after Terry’s slip, and Edwin van der Sar’s save from Nicolas Anelka’s penalty, he had that satisfaction.

Source: ESPN

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