Manchester United take on Chelsea in the Premier League on Thursday night – but the encounter will be a sad shadow of the clubs’ old rivalry amid their current woes. United have endured a miserable season, while the Blues are in turmoil after being put up for sale by their Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich in the wake of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Red Devils enjoyed an intense rivalry with Arsenal during the late 1990s and early 2000s. But Chelsea soon became a dominant force after Abramovich bought the club in 2003. The Blues won their first Premier League title in 2005 after appointing Jose Mourinho at the start of that season. And they backed that up with another title the following season.
Chelsea got the better of United in three of their four league encounters during those two seasons but the Red Devils hit back to win the Premier League in the 2006/07 campaign. The two giants have shared some memorable encounters over the years, with two coming before Abramovich had even arrived at the club.
In 1999, Chelsea thrashed United 5-0, despite the fact the Red Devils went into the match unbeaten in 29 games and included the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Andy Cole in their line-up. But United got their revenge later that same season as they came out on the right side of a 3-2 thriller as Dwight Yorke grabbed a brace.
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United have been in dismal form this season and their chances of landing a top-four finish were finally ended at the weekend after they lost to Arsenal. And Chelsea’s future is still up in the air as they can’t sign players or even sell match tickets while Abramovich is in charge. So Thursday’s encounter could be a low-key affair.
Instead, it is now Manchester City and Liverpool who are providing the top flight entertainment. The two sides are vying for Premier League and Champions League glory this season and have already played out three scintillating games this campaign. And it could be quite some time before United’s rivalry with Chelsea has the same intensity it once did.
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