Just over a year has passed since Jose Mourinho rolled back into Stamford Bridge following his more than acrimonious sacking the year previously, and this week sees the return of the Special One. When Manchester United made that first visit to SW6 in October 2016, there was still a touch of nostalgia towards Mourinho, and of course there should have been, he is the club’s most successful manager, who brought three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup in his two stints in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.
Since that first visit, there has been a fair amount of water that has passed under the bridge – Stamford Bridge if you will – and two incidents in particular. In the FA Cup Quarter Final at Stamford Bridge, following a touchline incident with Antonio Conte, Mourinho received some expletives in his ear from Chelsea fans behind the dugout, Mourinho responded in typical style by holding up three fingers, indicating the how many titles he won during his tenure with the Blues; was this abuse aimed at Mourinho justified? Not really, a manager with his association with the club should be treated with a bit more respect, yes he is a manager at a rival club, but Chelsea supporters have proven throughout the years that the return of a former player and manager who have won, and won well with the club, deserve a warm reception fitting of their status – think Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba.
The other incident was in defeat at Old Trafford at the tail end of the season, after inflicting a 2-0 on his former employers, Mourinho strode towards the tunnel and the Stretford End pointing to his Manchester United coat and in particular, the badge. While not a full-blown badge kiss as players do when celebrating a goal, it gave an indication of where his loyalties now lie, which is rightly to Manchester United. These two incidents, do not suggest that fans simply forgot what has gone before, but they do bring about some closure surrounding Mourinho and his time at Stamford Bridge. For a generation of supporters, he brought success that was only visible in dreams, in far-off wonder, and what is left is the winning mentality and the continued success that his first spell in charge brought about, Chelsea supporters will always hold a place in their hearts for Jose Mourinho but he is now in the past, and like in life it is always best to look to the future.
Talking of the past – let’s get in the mood for the visit of the Red Devils by looking at three of the best from matches of years gone by.
Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United – Premier League – Season 1999/00
As like a year ago, Chelsea started off like a train with Gus Poyet grabbing the opener inside the opening minute, a searching ball from Dan Petrescu found Poyet bursting into the penalty area to head beyond the despairing Massimo Taibi, who was in no man’s land trying to come for the cross.
1-0 became 2-0 just fifteen minutes later, another header, with Chris Sutton grabbing his first (and last) goal for the Blues. Tensions were rising, and on 22 minutes of the first half, things got even worse for the visitors, Nicky Butt and Chelsea captain Dennis Wise challenged for a 50/50 ball – do these still exist in 2017?? – Wise accidentally (or maybe not) catches Butt with a high boot, and as the United midfielder gets to his feet, knees the Chelsea captain in the midriff. Dermot Gallagher wasted no time in producing the red card, the red card brought about some ugly scenes between both sets of players, with United players accusing Wise of making the most of the incident.
Manchester United came out for the second half intent on salvaging something from the match and thus preserving their 29 match unbeaten run, Chelsea were not for pegging back, and made the most of their numerical advantage making it 3-0 on the hour mark.
A well-worked free kick between Celestine Babayaro and Frank Leboeuf saw the latter have a shot just outside the area, Taibi did well to save Leboeuf’s shot but only succeeded in parrying the ball into Poyet’s path, who slotted home his second of the game.
Further embarrassment was to follow two minutes later when Henning Berg turned the ball into his own net from a Gianfranco Zola cross. Ten minutes from time the icing was put on the cake in the shape of a fifth goal, courtesy of Jody Morris, coming off the bench to work well with fellow substitute Graeme Le Saux, to fire a low drive under the legs of the despairing legs of Taibi – this game proved to be the straw that broke Sir Alex Ferguson’s back, Taibi would not play for Manchester United again and returned to Italy.
Chelsea 3-0 Manchester United – Premier League – Season 2005/06
Chelsea claimed the title for the second successive season with a comprehensive victory over their nearest rivals.
If there were the slightest doubts surfacing around Stamford Bridge, then they were extinguished within the opening five minutes. Frank Lampard’s corner was knocked forward by Didier Drogba and William Gallas – who was making a habit of scoring at corners – stole a march on the United defenders to head past the stranded Edwin Van der Sar.
United were threatening to put a dampener on the celebrations and the champagne was almost having to be kept on ice, as Wayne Rooney almost brought United level on the stroke of half-time, bringing a fine save from Petr Cech.
On the hour mark, Joe Cole sent United defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Mikael Silvestre almost back to Manchester with one single turn, before racing into the area to fire his effort past Van Der Sar and send the Chelsea faithful into raptures – the title was in sight.
The party started in earnest in the 73rd minute when Ricardo Carvalho put the Blues into an unassailable 3-0 lead with a rare goal – the cigars in his celebration with Didier Drogba could be lit on the final whistle.
The Blues had become only the second team, after United, to win successive titles in the Premier League era.
Chelsea 5-4 Manchester United – League Cup Fifth Round – Season 2012/13
A pulsating evening of football brought about nine goals, defensive errors and high drama as Chelsea booked a Quarter Final tie against old foes Leeds United – ask older supporters.
The tone for the defending had been set as early as the 22nd minute when Petr Cech played a short goal kick to Oriol Romeu, the Spanish midfielder dithered, lost the ball and could only watch on helplessly as Ryan Giggs picked up the ball and calmly placed it beyond the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Chelsea were level just nine minutes later, Alex Buttner – no me neither – upended Victor Moses in the area which left Lee Mason no choice but to award Chelsea a penalty, David Luiz made no mistake and slotted the ball past Anders Lindegaard.
The match took on some extra spice following the sides meeting the previous Sunday, when it was alleged referee Mark Clattenburg had made racist remarks towards Jon Obi Mikel.
The scoring and defensive errors didn’t end there, this time it was Chelsea’s turn – again – David Luiz (the 2012 version) went on one of his runs over the halfway line and was inevitably was caught in possession, Rafael won the ball, Anderson played in Javier Hernandez with a killer pass and the Mexican did the rest with a neat finish.
In League Cup tradition, both sides made wholesale changes, United’s ten to Chelsea’s six, and two of the more experienced Chelsea players – Ramires and Eden Hazard – came off the bench to give more urgency to Chelsea’s play in the second half.
Chelsea were level on 50 minutes when Gary Cahill rose highest to fire in a header past Lindegaard from Juan Mata’s corner. Chelsea weren’t level long, seven minutes in fact, a fantastic exchange of passes between Hernandez and Anderson found Nani, who burst in the area to clip a lovely dinked finish over Cech.
It looked for all good and purposes that United would hang on for a rare win at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea would not be denied, having waved away a clear-cut penalty appeal from the Blues, Lee Mason gave Chelsea the chance to level from the spot in the final minute of the match, Eden Hazard duly stuck the penalty away to send the game into extra time.
With United beginning to tire and Chelsea’s experience beginning to show, 3-3 became 4-3 and the game swung in Chelsea’s favour. A long hopeful ball wasn’t dealt with by Micheal Keane, who only contributed into heading it into the path of Daniel Sturridge, who rounded the goalkeeper to give the Blues the lead.
Some lovely work on the edge of the area by Hazard capped off by a killer pass to Ramires, who like Sturridge in the first period of extra time, rounded Lindegaard to stroke the ball into an empty net to hand the tie to Chelsea. United did add a consolation in the final minute from a Ryan Giggs penalty to bring an end to an absorbing match and a night of high drama at Old Trafford.
So after a run of fixtures that have been navigated in not the easiest of fashion, a loss to Crystal Palace and wins against Watford and Bournemouth, the visit of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United may have come at a good time for Antonio Conte and his troops; a win would represent renewed confidence going into the busy festive period and the chance to claw some ground back on United, a loss, however, could see the Blues renewing their season-long ambitions, Manchester City could be too far out in front to catch this time around.
If United set up in the same way as at Anfield then it will be clear of Mourinho’s intentions, but their recent loss at Huddersfield could mean Mourinho is forced to change his usual tactic away from home. A statistic that has got to give Conte confidence: since 2015, away from home at their nearest rivals, Mourinho’s teams are yet to score a goal – if that isn’t a straw to be clutched at then I don’t know what is.
Whatever the outcome, the reception that Jose Mourinho can expect to receive should be that befitting of a man who brought unbridled success to Chelsea Football Club and the memory of his time in charge is a winning mentality that has never left despite who is in the dugout.
I know it is always best to look to the future, but sometimes it is worth looking back on the past at times with a hint of fondness.