José Mourinho takes his Manchester United team back to his old stomping ground at Stamford Bridge this afternoon in a game labelled as ‘The Return’ by Sky Sports. Let’s hope its better than ‘Red Monday’…
United and Chelsea may be both struggling to get back to the top of the Premier League summit at the moment but it was not too long ago when both sides dominated the English football landscape as they shared seven titles between 2004/2005 and 2010/2011.
Mourinho was the new kid on the block when he arrived at the Bridge in 2004/2005 and took advantage of a United team in transition as his ‘Untouchables’ cantered clear to back-to-back titles.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson was building another special team at Old Trafford and a swashbuckling United side denied Mourinho’s team a hat trick of titles in 2006/2007. The Portuguese would receive his first dismissal as Chelsea manager the following season while United dominated the rivalry, completing an impressive three in a row and, of course, edging out the Blues in the 2008 Champions League final on a rainy night in Moscow.
The loss of Ronaldo was always going to have an effect on Fergie’s team, and Chelsea went to Old Trafford late on in the 2009/2010 season and claimed a 2-1 win – a result that ultimately won them the title. United recovered the following season and edged Chelsea out in another tight title race, this time claiming a 2-1 win of their own at home while also knocking Chelsea out at the Champions League quarter-final stage.
Both teams had so much success in this period – as a result of the top quality players they possessed – we decided to take a look at the best combined XI between the two clubs from this period.
Goalkeeper – Edwin van der Sar
This was an extremely tough choice between Petr Cech and the Dutch shot stopper. There is no doubt that these are two of the best goalkeepers to ever grace the Premier League. However, Van der Sar edges his Czech rival as he beat Cech’s clean sheet record in the 2008/2009 season by going an astonishing 14 consecutive games without conceding a goal. Of course, Van der Sar also made that crucial save from Anelka’s penalty in the shoot out in Moscow to win United the European Cup and break Chelsea hearts.
Defence – Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra
Both clubs share the spoils in an unbreachable-looking back four. The right back position is perhaps the only one position that both clubs offer up few options but, despite his recent bad form, Ivanovic was as solid as a rock at his best. There is no doubt that John Terry deserves his place and his partner in a fearsome centre back partnership is another Serb in Nemanja Vidic. Evra edges out Ashley Cole to the left back slot.
Midfield – Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes
The perfect midfield combination. You would not find a better midfield line up than these three at their best. The defensive ability of Makelele, Lampard’s goals and the precise passing range of the best midfield player to grace the Premier League in Paul Scholes.
Attack – Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba
These three players pick themselves. Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time and took his game up another notch at Real Madrid but nobody can forget how devastating he was in English football. His 42 goals in United’s 2007/2008 double winning season was remarkable at the time. Rooney may have his critics these days but at his peak, he was a beast and he – alongside Ronaldo – terrorised defences weekly. Drogba was a player people would either love or hate but the Ivorian’s power and pace made him a truly great player for Chelsea.
Now to see which side will come out on top by the end of the day!
Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena
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