by Karl Hofer.
CHELSEA v UNITED: TWO CLASSICS
80’s Away Day
Perhaps one of the most painful defeats for United at the hands of Chelsea was The Blues 2-1 win at Old Trafford in April of 1986. Despite Everton and Liverpool breaking away from the chasing pack, both clubs were still grimly hanging on in the title race but neither side were in any kind of form going into this meeting. Chelsea were squandering away the games they had in hand on the leaders, having just been slapped 4-0 at home by fellow contenders West Ham and (even more disastrously) 6-0 away to neighbours QPR.
United meanwhile were starting to resemble that depressed drunk guy at the end of a night out, now rambling to themselves in the corner with bottle in hand having initially arrived as the life and soul of the party. They had seen a 10 point lead at Christmas dissolve into nothing and now Ron Atkinson’s side knew their long wait for the title would continue for sure unless they won this one. This was make-or-break for both clubs.
After a goalless first half, Kerry Dixon beat the offside trap to score his first goal for four months. United then equalised through a Jesper Olsen penalty, big Doug Rougvie doing what he did best; this time sending Hughes crashing to the floor in the area. But Dixon had the final say in the dying moments to knock United out of the title race and send the many thousands of travelling fans into delirium and the home fans into despair. The future looked bright momentarily for John Neal’s team but Chelsea would subsequently win only one of their last seven games to finish in sixth spot.
United’s poor form continued through the beginning of the following season, and with the club languishing at the foot of the table in November manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed – with Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox taking over that same day.
One to Eleven!
Without question the greatest match between the sides was an 11 goal thriller at Stamford Bridge back in October 1954. Ted Drake had taken over Chelsea in 1952 and had been busy trying to rid them of their image, one that saw them as the butt of many a comedian’s jokes in the music-halls up and down the land. Out went the nickname ‘The Pensioners’, replaced with the more respectable ‘Blues’. Also dispatched was the affable septuagenarian on the clubs crest. This was a new Chelsea, one that Drake was instilling with a winning mentality.
To that end Drake drafted in solid defenders Peter Sillett and future England boss Ron Greenwood, plus striker Roy Bentley. As a consequence the team established itself in the top flight and were no longer involved in relegation battles, but nobody expected more than a safe mid-table position when the 1954-55 season came round.
The favourites for the title were reigning champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Matt Busby’s upcoming Manchester United side.
The game on October 16th was a glowing confirmation of the emergence of the attacking prowess of the ‘Busby’s Babes’. The visitors went 1-0 up with Dennis Viollet opening the scoring but a pair of unknown amateurs making their debuts returned fire as Seamus O’Connell equalized before the Thermos-flask seller Jim Lewis put the home side 2-1 up. Tommy Taylor and then Viollet put United back in front 2-3, a lead they held at half-time.
The same pair in the same order, Taylor and then Viollet (completing his hat-trick) seemed to have put Matt Busby’s side out of sight at 2-5 but then Ken Armstrong pulled one back for Chelsea. Jackie Blanchflower looked to have sealed the points when he made it 3-6, but cattle-farmer O’Connell then scored twice to record a famous debut hat-trick and set up a grandstand finish, but United’s shaky defence clung on for an extraordinary 5-6 triumph.
Chelsea lost their next two games – completing a run of six games without a win – to end October in 12th place, Wolves having taken over from United at the top. But then Drake’s Ducklings got their act together losing only four more games all season as they stormed up the table and, beating Wolves home and away, shocked the nation to win the title. Their last defeat of the season was at Old Trafford – but by then the title, Chelsea’s first trophy in their 50 year history, had been won.
The Busby Babes would have to wait to make their mark on English football’s roll of honour.
CHELSEA v MANCHESTER UNITED, Saturday April 18th, 5.30pm
If you fancy a repeat of that 5-6 scoreline then you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that William Hill are offering a handsome 500-1 on it. Realistically the game is set to be a much tighter affair. A confident United (3/1) will be keen to unnerve Chelsea (10/11) early on, imposing their own game on the blues. The first goal of the game could prove critical.
There will be a lot of mutual respect, both managers know each other extremely well having worked together previously at Barcelona and Mourinho will be keen not to concede an inch to LVG – So Bobby’s Bets recommends a draw at 5/2, with a 1-1 final scoreline at 6/1.
Diego Costa is missing from Chelsea’s starting line-up and Loic Remy is fighting to be fit – he’s 4/1 to open the scoring if he makes it. You could opt for Oscar (13/2) or Fabregas (9/1) but the 9/2 on offer for the penalty-taking and in-form Eden Hazard looks the better value.
If you think one of the visiting team will strike first than Wayne Rooney is the favourite at 13/2 with van Persie at 15/2 and Radamel Falcao at 9/1. But the man in form is the big Belgian Marouane Fellaini who is 9/1 to be the first scorer. If you fancy Juan Mata to do a ‘Frank Lampard’ then you can get 10/3 for the Spaniard as ‘anytime goalscorer’ against his old club.
Bobby’s Bet of the Day: 11/1 for Eden Hazard to score at anytime and the game to end a draw (Anytime Drawcast).
Odds courtesy of William Hill.