Flip again the clock a decade and Manchester United and Chelsea have been the most effective two groups in Europe.
“I do know it may be completely different for followers, who may need lengthy standing rivalries with Liverpool or Manchester Metropolis, however Chelsea have been our greatest rivals,” Nemanja Vidic instructed ESPN FC. “Chelsea have been the staff who pushed us and we pushed them. We drove one another on. Within the league, within the cups, in Europe. We pushed one another to the restrict; we have been doing properly in England and likewise in Europe.”
Vidic’s spotlight as a footballer would come in opposition to Chelsea within the 2008 European Cup last in Moscow, a sport that was selected penalties. The edges would have met once more the next yr, had it not been for Andres Iniesta scoring a last-minute objective at Stamford Bridge, a venue the place United have picked up fewer wins than another away floor this century.
“Stamford Bridge was a tricky place to play,” Vidic stated. “The pitch is tight and Chelsea had a robust bodily presence with [John] Terry, [Michael] Essien, [Frank] Lampard and [Didier] Drogba, who I normally marked. Together with Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez, Drogba was my hardest opponent; you needed to be very cautious if you performed in opposition to him. He scored so many essential targets, he was very constant. We have been each on the peak of our careers. He relied on his bodily power, however he was intelligent, too. He’d get a free kick on the sting of the field which Lampard may then take.”
Backed by the cash of proprietor Roman Abramovich, Jose Mourinho’s expertise revolutionised Chelsea after took over as supervisor in 2004. In his first season, Chelsea gained the league for the primary time in 50 years and gained a second successive title in 2006, clinching the prize by beating United Three-Zero at house.
However United have been poor at Stamford Bridge earlier than Chelsea got here into cash. Within the final 20 seasons, they’ve gained the league fixture simply 3 times, drawing seven and shedding 10. There was just one win within the final 15 and that was in opposition to 9 males in 2012.
Mourinho is aware of all this. He helped make the aspect managed by Antonio Conte what they’re and, whereas United taking Nemanja Matic from them was a blow, Chelsea are the champions and getting a end result there will probably be very tough, despite the fact that the hosts are going into the sport after a Three-Zero hiding at Roma on Tuesday.
United do not concede three targets to anybody. A Four-Zero defeat at Chelsea apart final season, just one staff — Watford — have scored greater than twice within the 80 matches since Mourinho took management. Earlier than that, 4 groups managed it in 2013-14, three groups in 2014-15 and 4 in 2015-16; 5 golf equipment put three or extra previous United in 2012-13, Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season.
The aforementioned Four-Zero sport was a catastrophe, although that did not cease the travelling United followers singing increasingly more because the targets flew in for Chelsea. And when March’s FA Cup sixth spherical draw arrange a return go to, most thought: “Nicely, that is the top of our cup run.”
Once more, the help was good however, once more, it was in a shedding trigger as Chelsea gained 1-Zero. Mourinho felt he had issues proper tactically till Ander Herrera was despatched off within the 35th minute however, after that, there have been instances when the dominance of Conte’s aspect was so complete that the 6,000 United followers on the reverse finish did not come near seeing the ball.
Mourinho, who should attend a courtroom case in Spain on Friday morning earlier than flying again to Manchester to supervise a coaching session, is an knowledgeable in avoiding defeat and clearly picked Tuesday’s staff in opposition to Benfica with Sunday’s sport in thoughts.
Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia have been rested and Ander Herrera, man of the match in April’s sudden 2-Zero win at Outdated Trafford in opposition to champions-elect Chelsea, began on the bench. Marcus Rashford and his England teammate Ashley Younger, who was recalled to the nationwide staff squad on Thursday, have been additionally subs, as was the out-of-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The defensive formations can frustrate followers craving for extra pleasure however Mourinho is a pragmatist, who prefers his staff to assault in opposition to the weaker sides, no less than till he feels he has a line-up ok to go and assault the most effective.
United’s supervisor additionally feels that criticism of his aspect is unfair and may level out that the Tottenham staff they beat have been ok to outclass Actual Madrid 4 days later. The European champions and Huddersfield are the one golf equipment to defeat United in 16 video games this season.
Mourinho will get extra proper than incorrect and stays an excellent supervisor. He has improved the staff — albeit at nice expense — and has given children an opportunity whereas additionally re-invigorating the careers of Herrera, who wasn’t glad beneath Louis van Gaal, in addition to Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo.
Although he may trigger an argument in an empty room, his gamers stay loyal to Mourinho. They like him, and never simply because he is made the staff exhausting to beat or as a result of he picked up three trophies in his first season. They assume he fights their nook, even when, within the case of Romelu Lukaku, it would not want preventing because the followers are on his aspect.
Mourinho stays well-liked amongst followers, even when he has prompted divided views with latest feedback about them, however he’ll be liked extra if he can return to his outdated stomping floor and beat the champions.
Andy Mitten is a contract author and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Comply with him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.