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Plotting the Manchester United-Chelsea Rivalry Since the Glazers

BR-UK StaffAnalyst IIIJanuary 18, 2014

Plotting the Manchester United-Chelsea Rivalry Since the Glazers

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    Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday in a crucial Premier League contest, with the Blues looking to continue their title challenge. Meanwhile, United are hoping to rope themselves back into Champions League qualification contention with a confidence-boosting three points at Stamford Bridge.

    When the two teams met earlier in the season at Old Trafford, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho famously opted for a striker-less formation and seemed more than content to walk away with a 0-0 draw. But since then, many other sides have exposed the cracks in David Moyes’ United lineup, and Chelsea will surely set out with more attacking intent this Sunday.

    What is less certain, however, is whether either of the clubs' owners will be in attendance. It has been nearly 11 years since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, and it has been nine years since the Glazers controversially completed their United takeover.

    Over the years, the two owners have overseen their respective clubs in markedly different ways. In this article, we will analyse all 25 meetings between United and Chelsea since the Glazers took over, looking at matters both on and off the pitch for the two clubs.

The Last Meeting Before the Glazers Took Over

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    Just two days before the Glazers launched their full takeover of Manchester United (two years after they first bought a small stake), the club faced Chelsea in the Premier League.

    Over the last decade, it has become a common view that the Glazers have held United back somewhat by saddling the club with debt, but if the last meeting with the Blues before they took over is used as a barometer, than the buyout was perhaps overdue.

    Emboldened by both Roman Abramovich’s financial might in the transfer market and the confident management of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea—who had already been crowned champions—crushed Manchester United 3-1 in front of their home fans.

    Tiago, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Joe Cole—all Abramovich-funded signings—powered Chelsea to victory after Ruud van Nistelrooy had opened the scoring, as Mourinho’s side went on to set a Premier League record of 95 points for the season (18 more than United).

    “Chelsea broke into United's home and, like vandals, smashed the records that Ferguson had proudly collected,” Kevin McCarra wrote in The Guardian. “Mourinho's side have now amassed the most points ever achieved in the Premiership. They have also run up 29 league wins, where United only ever reached 28.”

Keane Outburst Overshadows Important United Win

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    The next time the two sides met, in November, the situation was similar, but the scoreline was different. Manchester United won 1-0 thanks to Darren Fletcher’s fortuitous header, as they moved within 10 points of Chelsea in the early league standings.

    It was a timely boost for United, who had suffered the ignominy of a 4-1 League Cup defeat to Middlesbrough and Champions League loss to Lille in the build-up. Those results had led club talisman to criticise the strength of the squad, an outburst that would lead to his shock departure from Old Trafford the following week.

    As reported at the time, Keane was quoted as telling MUTV in an in-house interview that the clubs chose not to air: 

    The younger players have been let down by some of the more experienced players. They are just not leading.

    There is a shortage of characters in this team. It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that is what I should do when I come back. Play badly.

    There is talk about putting this right in January and bringing new players in. We should be doing the opposite—we should be getting rid of people in January.

    In light of Keane's comments, after beating Chelsea, Ferguson's post-match observations seemed to be somewhat pointed. As quoted by the BBC, Ferguson noted:

    The young players have been carrying the mantle for weeks and their keenness to play has been fantastic.

    The bones of the team are sat in the stand, no use to us. What we face is young players who need consistency.

    We went 13 games without winning once and people forget these things.

    Winning is always important here. All the staff and players have shown great dignity. No matter what the criticism, they've just got on with their job.

Big Home Win Clinches Second Successive Title for the Blues

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    Six months on and having parted terms with Keane, United arrived at Stamford Bridge still well adrift of their rivals in second. Indeed, they needed to win in West London to prevent their rivals from clinching a second successive Premier League title.

    Unfortunately for Ferguson, however, that never looked likely to happen. William Gallas headed home after five minutes before Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho completed the scoring, securing a 3-0 win that allowed the celebrations to start among the Blues fans.

    For United, who eventually finished eight points beyond the title-winners in second, the game was overshadowed by an injury to Wayne Rooney—who broke a metatarsal in an injury that had major implications for England's World Cup campaign.

    Prior to his injury, Rooney had been perhaps the liveliest player on the park, perhaps hinting at more successful times ahead for the Red Devils.

    "The result perhaps does not reflect how well Manchester United played," Mourinho conceded to the BBC afterward. "But we overcame it to confirm our position as Premiership champions."

    Ferguson added: 

    It was harsh and I don't think 3-0 was a fair reflection of our performance.

    If you lose goals as softly as we did today you have to take your medicine for that. We had a lot of the play and made some good chances but we didn't make it count.

    But Chelsea deserve all the plaudits they will get and, especially on their home form, they are worthy champions.

Draw at Old Trafford Gives United More Cause for Confidence

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    Perhaps anticipating that they would be the two most likely title contenders, the fixture list for the 2006-07 season decided that Manchester United and Chelsea would not meet until November in the Premier League.

    By that time, with 13 league games already completed, United were three points ahead of Mourinho's men at the top of the table—with Bolton (!) seven points further adrift in third. Already, the game had the feel of a vital one.

    United started the game and, after Louis Saha had opened the scoring in the first half, had further chances to extend their lead. But Chelsea—far the more prosaic of the two sides—grabbed an equaliser thanks to Ricardo Carvalho's header and were able to finish with a draw they seemed relatively content with.

    Afterward, the feeling was that this Chelsea team was still the superior side in England. As Kevin McCarra wrote in The Guardian:

    Even if they are far from being the most cultivated of teams, this sort of vigour threatens to take Chelsea clear of all rivals in the long run.

    United, despite letting a lead slip, cannot even think of too many faults that they can fix in the near future. Sir Alex Ferguson's team must only lament the openings that tended to slip away from them.

With United Champions and FA Cup Final to Come, Rotation Rules

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    If the schedule-makers had anticipated that a Matchday 37 meeting between these two clubs would effectively decide the title, then they were to be thoroughly disappointed, as United had clinched the title a week earlier.

    Not only that, but the impending FA Cup final between the two clubs meant that neither coach was prepared to play a full-strength side for what was effectively a meaningless fixture (Chelsea, in somewhat scant consolation, had already secured second)—leading to the bizarre situation where the likes of Dong Fangzhuo, Tomasz Kuszczak and Chris Eagles were given a guard of honour by a visiting team that featured Scott Sinclair and Lassana Diarra.

    In a dull game, "The draw is a fair result and is what normally happens in these [ultimately meaningless] matches," Mourinho noted afterward. Neither side looked like winners, although Chelsea nearly stole it at the death when substitute Ben Sahar had a shot cleared off the line.

    Nevertheless, it appeared the FA Cup final was the driving focus for both sides.

Drogba Powers Chelsea to FA Cup Delight

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    The two best teams in England, near the peak of their powers, contesting a cup final at the new Wembley... Surely, that's a recipe for success.

    Apparently not, as the 2007 FA Cup final was quickly dismissed in some quarters as "the most boring FA Cup final ever."

    While the final, the first at the new Wembley Stadium, was undoubtedly low on goals and overt excitement, it was an intriguing battle of styles and wills, with Didier Drogba's 116th minute strike ultimately the only difference between the two sides.

    It was a fine team goal to decide matters, as Drogba played a first-time one-two with Frank Lampard before beating Edwin van der Sar to the return to flick it into the unguarded net.

    Manchester United had no real time to respond, as Mourinho's side at least ended the season with some silverware.

    The Observer perhaps summed up matters, with Paul Wilson writing: "It was no real surprise that two strong teams effectively cancelled each other out—Cup finals sometimes go like that—though it was a pity none of the individuals on the pitch managed to stamp their personality on the occasion. Not even the managers."

     

United Feast on Mourinho-Less Chelsea

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    Two years earlier when the two sides had met, it had been when Manchester United who were in turmoil. Now it was Chelsea's turn. And United took full advantage, preying on the shock departure of Jose Mourinho to ease to a 2-0 win against their rivals.

    Mourinho had departed the club in surprise circumstances just days earlier, with Avram Grant the surprise name to take on the job just days before the trip to Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson, against an opponent vastly less experienced, saw his side clinch an important three points—as Carlos Tevez nodded in just before half-time, and Louis Saha converted a penalty in the final minutes.

    Chelsea were not helped by the dismissal of John Obi Mikel for a lunging challenge on Patrice Evra, but it nevertheless felt like a further change in the balance of power—the stability and unity of Manchester United keeping them ahead of their rivals, who were adjusting to life after one of the most single-minded managers in their history.

Ballack Sets Up Frantic Title Finish

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    If the organisers' hopes for a title showdown were thwarted 12 months earlier, this time their best laid plans paid off reasonably well. There was a catch, though: With Champions League semi-final second legs on the horizon, both sides were somewhat distracted.

    United, three points clear (and with a superior goal difference) in the league and facing the prospect of Barcelona in the European competition, opted to rotate a number of their key players. Chelsea, despite playing catch-up, also needed to rotate some—with the recent death of Frank Lampard's mother understandably leaving them without the midfielder's services.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Chelsea were the dominant force in this meeting at Stamford Bridge, with Michael Ballack's opener only cancelled out after a careless Ricardo Carvalho backpass had gifted Wayne Rooney an equaliser.

    Ballack, though, would eventually seal the points—stepping up and converting from the penalty spot in the 86th minute after Michael Carrick had been found guilty of a handball offence.

    The result left United ahead on goal difference (by a 16-goal margin) with two games remaining. Fortunately for Ferguson, wins against West Ham and Wigan duly powered his side to glory.

Terry's Slip Hands United Another European Crown

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    Less than one month after the Premier League face-off, Chelsea and Manchester United met once again to decide who would be champions of Europe.

    Chelsea, under the not entirely convincing auspices of Avram Grant, had reached the final against the odds—overcoming perennial bogey team Liverpool in a frantic semi-final. Manchester United, meanwhile, had edged out Barcelona 1-0 over two legs to get to Moscow, where they were bidding to win their first Champions League crown since 1999.

    The game itself was more exciting and eventful than many of the sides' recent meetings, especially as it neared a conclusion. Cristiano Ronaldo, the subject of transfer speculation from Real Madrid, opened the scoring in the first half, but that was soon cancelled out by Frank Lampard.

    The game went to extra time, where Didier Drogba was sent off for a petulant kick at Nemanja Vidic, and then penalties, where Drogba's absence perhaps cost Chelsea dear. 

    After Ronaldo was the only one to miss his penalty of the first nine takers, Blues captain John Terry had the chance to win the competition with his attempt from 12 yards. But, infamously, Terry slipped and saw his shot cannon away off the post, as subsequent conversions from Anderson and Ryan Giggs set the stage for Edwin van der Sar to save Nicolas Anelka's penalty and finally clinch victory.

    On the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, Sir Bobby Charlton led the United players up to collect their trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson reflected a day later, as noted by the Daily Telegraph:

    I think fate has been on our side.

    I think the 50th anniversary of Munich gave us a cause.

    Once you have a cause, you become very difficult to battle against.

    If fate was working with United, then it was working against Grant. The loss "ended" a long unbeaten streak for the Israeli, but he was nevertheless summarily dismissed within 24 hours of the defeat. Guus Hiddink, Roberto Mancini and even Mourinho, seven months after departing, were immediately linked with the post.

    United, meanwhile, could concentrate on celebrating.

Draw Helps Neither Side After Slow Start

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    A new season, a new manager. Luiz Felipe Scolari continued a promising start to life as Chelsea boss with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United, although the Blues perhaps should have won the game after an impressive second half.

    United, in contrast, had started the season sluggishly with a win, a draw and a defeat—with the draw at Stamford Bridge at least indicating that this was a poor start rather than indication of a larger issue.

    Park Ji-sung opened the scoring for United, but Salomon Kalou notched late on to ensure Chelsea got at least the point their performance warranted.

    Scolari told the BBC:

    The game is one of the best games we've played this season, because we have many problems.

    After we lost Deco, Manchester controlled the game for 15 minutes and they played better than us.

    They made a goal—and after this, we improved. We had more chances than them but we missed some chances in front of goal.

United Rout Sounds Beginning of the End for Scolari

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    Other results later in the campaign would become better remembered in the context of the 2008-09 title race (Macheda's goal against Aston Villa, anyone?), but this game had a huge impact on both clubs.

    In the short term, it elevated United—who had games in hand after their participation in, and victory of, the Club World Championship—to within one point of Chelsea and five of Liverpool (with two games in hand). Within a month, too, Chelsea's Scolari would be sacked, with the Blues board citing "the results and performances of the team appeared to be deteriorating at a key time in the season" as the reason, via FIFA.com.

    Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and recent £31 million signing Dimitar Berbatov got the goals for United in a 3-0 win. Although, it was Cristiano Ronaldo's disallowed goal, after a clever corner-kick routine between Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, that perhaps best symbolised how much more engaged and inspired United appeared to be.

    Before the game, as noted by the New York Times, Scolari said "I was thinking of this game when I signed for Chelsea." A month later, when he was given his marching orders following subsequent poor results against Liverpool and Hull, it's a fair guess that the Brazilian was still thinking about the game at Old Trafford.

Another New Manager for Chelsea: This Time a Different Result

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    Another new manager for Chelsea, this time a different result. Like Scolari before him, Carlo Ancelotti had started his career at Stamford Bridge in impressive fashion, but this victory helped cement his side's status as title favourites as early as November.

    John Terry's header with 15 minutes remaining was the only goal of the game and elevated the Blues five points clear of their most likely title rivals after just 12 games.

    That was hardly a fair reflection of how the game had gone, however, with Ferguson outwitting his opposite number with his tactical tweaks (packing the midfield) but seeing his side fail to take advantage of the number of chances they created.

    As Henry Winter in the Telegraph noted afterward, "If it is a sign of champions-in-waiting to pick up points while playing poorly then Ancelotti’s side look ready to end United’s three titles on the spin."

    It would prove to be a prophetic statement.

Blues Regain Control of Title Race by Doing League Double over Rivals

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    Didier Drogba came off the bench as a late substitute to decide this match at Old Trafford and perhaps change the course of the title race with a 2-1 win.

    Chelsea went from a point behind their rivals to two points clear with the victory, which was perhaps more deserved than their home success earlier in the season.

    Having thumped Aston Villa 7-1 in the previous match, Ancelotti kept faith and was rewarded when Joe Cole gave his side the lead shortly before half-time.

    Drogba then doubled the advantage with 11 minutes remaining, before Federico Macheda's quick response set up a fraught conclusion.

    But Chelsea held on, giving themselves the title race initiative with five games remaining. And it was an initiative they would not squander—eventually winning the title by a single point after cruising to victory against Wigan on the final day.

Chelsea Win, but It Can't Revive Their Title Hopes

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    For the first time in a while, this meeting saw the two sides face off with only one realistically in the race for the title.

    Chelsea won, but the result only lifted them within 12 points of United, who were more focused in holding off Arsenal—a harkening back to the days before Chelsea became such a behemoth.

    On the occasion, it was David Luiz and Frank Lampard who got second-half strikes in a 2-1 win, canceling out Wayne Rooney's opener on a night that saw recent £50 million signing Fernando Torres continue his goalscoring drought for his new club.

    Rooney would be back to Stamford Bridge before the season was out, however, and would score a goal of greater significance.

United Edge Champions League Semi-Final Showdown

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    In between their two league meetings, the two clubs reconvened in the Champions League for something approaching a rematch of that dramatic 2008 final, as they were drawn together in the quarter-finals of the 2010-11 competition.

    In a fraught first leg at Stamford Bridge, Manchester United edged matters thanks to Wayne Rooney's crucial goal—which he celebrated with a distinctly odd head-first dive on the Stamford Bridge turf. With both the advantage and an away goal, it put United in a strong position heading into the second leg.

    Ancelotti told UEFA.com

    We know it will be difficult now.

    We need to win at Old Trafford and have the confidence we can do this. Our performance tonight was good and we gave 100%. In general we played good football, with good control, but we conceded a goal too easily and it was very difficult to come back. We had a lot of chances, more than them.

    At Old Trafford, Javier Hernandez's goal just two minutes before half-time put United in an imposing position, although Didier Drogba's goal with 13 minutes remaining thrust the tie back into doubt. That was until Park Ji-sung found the net within 60 seconds, leaving Chelsea needing to find a further two goals to progress.

    Even one was not forthcoming, as United moved into the semi-finals. Ferguson noted, per UEFA.com:

    The whole team have played with great credit.

    It was a very tough game, Chelsea played well for a lot of the game and we played well for most of it too. We had two teams picked tonight, hopefully I picked the right one. The other option was to play Park [Ji-Sung] in Wayne's position and put Wayne up front and leave [Javier Hernández] out.

    But that's where you get luck, because he scored the first goal.

    United would go on to face Schalke in the semi-finals, negotiating the German side relatively easily to book a final meeting against Barcelona at Wembley.

    The Spanish side proved too strong for Ferguson's men, however, eventually winning 3-1 in London.

United Go to Verge of Record 19th Title with Slender Win

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    When the two sides met again in the league, barely two months later, the scoreline was reversed, but the fortunes of the two sides remained approximately the same.

    Chelsea, after an improvement under Ancelotti, had stormed up to second in the table but were still some way adrift of United, who eased themselves within one point of a record 19th top-flight title with this important win.

    United, with more to gain, looked the hungrier from the off—Javier Hernandez scoring the opener inside the first 36 seconds, before Nemanja Vidic nodded home soon after to set a foundation for a victory that never really appeared to be in doubt.

    Frank Lampard scored with 20 minutes remaining to set up an intriguing finish, but United held on and would raise the Premier League soon after.

Remarkable Torres Miss Tops Off Easy Manchester United Win

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    A horrible miss from Fernando Torres capped off a poor day for Chelsea, as Manchester United romped to a 3-1 win at Old Trafford.

    Once again, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson faced a new adversary in the Blues dugout—this time the impossibly young Andre Villas-Boas, who had previously worked under Jose Mourinho at the club before making his own name as a manager with a successful spell at Porto.

    While it would be unwise to blame Chelsea's loss entirely on Villas-Boas' naivety and inexperience, it certainly seemed to play a part, as Wayne Rooney gave Raul Meireles the runaround all game, and goals from Chris Smalling, Nani and Rooney himself gave United a surprising 3-0 half-time advantage.

    Torres scored straight after half-time to give the visitors hope, but a shocking miss later in the match—putting wide of the goal after rounding David De Gea—summed up Chelsea's day as they were soon well beaten.

    The result put United five points clear of Chelsea after five games of the new season, immediately putting the pressure on Villas-Boas. Would he be still in the job for the return meeting at Stamford Bridge?

United Stun Chelsea with Three-Goal Comeback to Claim Draw

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    As it turned out, Villas-Boas would still be Chelsea manager when the two sides met again—although his job was considered somewhat precarious due to rumours surrounding his relationship with senior members of the squad and the club's ongoing battle for fourth in the league.

    It looked like Villas-Boas was going to silence all those whispers when his side took an early 3-0 advantage at Stamford Bridge—thanks to Jonny Evans' own goal and strikes from Juan Mata—but two penalties from Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez's 84th minute equaliser left him forced to settle for a draw.

    Afterward, AVB told the BBC

    The first one is an obvious penalty, nothing to say, but the second one is very, very dubious," said Villas-Boas.

    I don't know if Howard Webb had the correct angle to make the decision but it is very unlucky for him to give it.

    It is Danny Welbeck's leg that collides against Branislav Ivanovic's.

    Within a month, Villas-Boas would be dismissed, having slipped behind Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification. His assistant, Roberto Di Matteo, would replace him on temporary basis—famously going on to win the Champions League in a penalty shootout against Bayern Munich.

Controversy Reigns Again as Offside Goal Gives United the Win

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    A different manager was in the Chelsea dugout (again), but controversy once again reigned supreme as Manchester United beat Chelsea 3-2 to move back into contention in the early title race.

    Chelsea were four points ahead of their rivals at the start of the day, but that margin was slashed by the end, as Javier Hernandez scored from a clear offside position 15 minutes from time.

    Prior to that, Chelsea had come back on terms from 2-0 down but then saw two players sent off. Branislav Ivanovic was dismissed (correctly) for a last-man foul, and then Fernando Torres was awarded a second yellow card for what appeared to erroneously judged a dive.

    David Luiz's own goal and Robin van Persie's strike gave United a 2-0 advantage after just 12 minutes, before Juan Mata and Ramires clambered Roberto Di Matteo's side back on terms either side of half-time.

    But the dismissals, coupled with Hernandez's fortuitous decision, were too much for the home side to overcome.

    Afterward, Ferguson said, per Eurosport

    We were due a break coming down here after some truly terrible decisions in the past. Chicharito may have been offside for the winning goal, from what the people doing the analysis are telling me.

    In terms of the sendings-off, Ivanovic quite clearly deserved to go, there is no question about that. I think (Jonny Evans) caught (Fernando Torres, who was shown a second booking for diving). The issue is that does the striker choose to go down? When I was a striker you wanted to take that opportunity to go for goal. I don’t know why you’d want to go down with a chance on goal.

    At 10 men I think we’d have won the match anyway. (Chelsea) scoring the second goal put the momentum back out way. That woke us up a bit.

Nine Goals in 120 Minutes as Chelsea Eventually Progress

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    Two youthful team selections played out a pulsating League Cup encounter at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea eventually progressed thanks to a 5-4 victory after extra time.

    United led three times thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs, Javier Hernandez and Nani, but each time they were pegged back as David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard (with a 90th minute penalty) forced things to extra time.

    There, Chelsea moved two goals clear thanks to further strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Ramires, with Giggs' late penalty not enough to spark another, last-gasp comeback.

    Ferguson was stoic afterward, although he did seem to criticise Nani for losing the ball in the build-up to Hazard's penalty. He told the BBC:

    I don't know if it was a penalty or not but at that point think the young players started to feel it. If you are winning 3-2 in the final seconds of the game then you should see it out.

    Nani is an individual. He wants to beat men and we are not going to discourage that. Some of our football was terrific.

    Ryan Giggs played the full game and he is 39 next month. He is an example to all the players on that pitch, including the Chelsea players.

Benitez Gets One Over Ferguson in Cup Marathon

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    An acrobatic volley from Demba Ba was the difference as Chelsea edged through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after a replay against Manchester United.

    After the initial meeting at Old Trafford had finished 2-2 after a spirited Blues comeback, Chelsea went on to win the quarter-final tie thanks to Ba's finish shortly after half-time.

    Benitez noted to the Telegraph afterward:

    It was important for everyone here.

    A cup competition you have to win. If not, you’re out. We have scored a lot of goals, but this [goal] was one of the best. Really important, very good technique, very difficult.

    The Spaniard had every right to be proud of his team, especially after the display in the first meeting. He had been booed by his own fans when, 2-0 down, he withdraw Frank Lampard and Victor Moses with Eden Hazard and John Obi Mikel shortly after half-time, but Hazard in particular was crucial to the comeback, with him scoring the first and Ramires the second, as the Blues cancelled out strikes inside the first 11 minutes from Rooney and Hernandez to ultimately book a replay.

    That game was decided by Ba, although a crucial late save from Petr Cech preserved the scoreline.

Mata Clinches a Chelsea Win for Benitez, Days Before Ferguson Bows Out

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    Another incongruous meeting between the two sides, with Manchester United having already wrapped up the title and Chelsea coming to the end of the tenure of yet another manager—this time interim boss Rafa Benitez.

    Benitez, brought in to replace Di Matteo and tasked with ensuring the Blues qualified for the Champions League, duly helped his side with this victory—Juan Mata scoring via a hefty deflection off Phil Jones with just three minutes remaining to clinch victory.

    The match was notably heated, with Rafael sent off after appearing to elbow David Luiz—an infraction the Brazilian certainly made the most of as he rolled around on the floor in an egregious attempt to get his compatriot dismissed.

    Afterward, Ferguson told the BBC

    There is always an expectation that we should do better. We expected a better performance. After the goal we had no time to get back in the game.

    It was difficult for players coming in. Chelsea had everything to play for. They [some of our players] haven't played for quite a while. That being said, we should be doing better.

    Benitez, whose relationship with Ferguson has been heated ever since his Liverpool side fought them (unsuccessfully) for the title in 2009, seemed pleased with the victory, adding:

    It wasn't an easy game. The tempo was not too high.

    You can understand when they have already won the title it is easier for them to relax a little bit.

    But 65 games is not easy to keep playing at a high tempo all the time. I think we did well and won, which was the most important thing for us.

    Chelsea eventually finished third, with Benitez giving a decent platform for his successor, the returning Jose Mourinho, to build upon.

    But, in a shock development, Manchester United also ended up searching for a new manager. Just days after this loss, Ferguson announced that he would be retiring from football at the end of the season.

Mourinho Nullifies United Threat in Dull Return

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    All of this brings us up-to-date. With two new managers in the dugout, Jose Mourinho opted for a striker-less formation that blunted Manchester United's home advantage as the two sides played out one of the more boring 0-0 draws involving the two sides in recent times.

    Indeed, if anything, the main excitement surrounded the one striker involved that Chelsea were believed to want to buy—United's Wayne Rooney being the only player on the pitch to ever elevate the blood pressure of those in attendance.

    Afterward, Mourinho owned up to his spoiling tactics, telling Sky Sports:

    I think the result is fair. I think nobody did enough to be better than the opponent.

    I think we controlled the game for most of the time. For a match at Old Trafford, we didn't have real problems.

    Our counter-attacks and passes, to go from defensive situations to attacking situations, was not the best. We had very creative players in attack, very fast players in attack, but the ball possession was not the best, we lost simple passes. There were a lot of mistakes. In those terms, we didn't give what we could or what we should.

    But I told the players before the game: 'We want to win, we play to win, but if we don't win, we don't lose'. I think the players understood this completely.

    This Sunday, however, the pressure will be on his side to secure a win that will continue their title challenge. With David Moyes also needing points to ease the pressure on his embryonic tenure, it could prove a far more intriguing tactical battle this time around.

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