On Monday night Manchester United take on Chelsea at a ground which has not been kind for the Reds, especially this century, since a 3-0 win in 2002, United have only won just one league game at Stamford Bridge. However, victories in both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in 2019 give cause for optimism that the hoodoo in South West London could well and truly be banished for good.
Alongside the solitary league win, which came in October 2012, the only other success in the long 17 years since 2019 was a Champions League Quarter-Final first leg triumph in April 2011. That first leg was actually only the third time United have kept a clean sheet at the Bridge since 2002, with the other two shutouts both being 0-0. One of those goalless draws was a league match in May 2007, where United as the newly crowned champions sent a heavily weakened team out to receive a guard of honour.
Despite this, there have been more dejecting trips than celebratory ones. In May 2006, Chelsea were the ones partying as they swept United aside 3-0 to seal a second title in a row under Jose Mourinho. In November 2009, John Terry’s dubious goal in a 1-0 defeat proved costly for the Reds as they missed out on the title to Chelsea by a single point and although United beat Chelsea at the Bridge in the league in Ferguson’s final season in charge, they lost there in both the domestic cup competitions.
In the League Cup tie of that year, United were 3-2 up with just seconds remaining, only to end up losing 5-4 in extra time. However, possibly the most painful defeat and the most dreadful performance came in October 2016. Mourinho went back to Chelsea in his first season as United manager, only to be on the receiving end of a 4-0 drubbing from Antonio Conte’s side, who were starting to put together a 13-match winning run on their way to the title.
That defeat was certainly deserved, but there have been plenty of occasions where United have played well away at Chelsea and been denied a result by a refereeing descion. Firstly, in April 2008, Alan Wiley somehow gave a handball against Michael Carrick when the ball was struck at the midfielder from a very short distance. The late penalty given by Wiley gave the home side a 2-1 victory.
Wiley was again pivitol in the aforementioned game in 2009. The goal scored by Terry came from a free kick given by him after Ashley Cole went down easily from a Darren Fletcher challenge, while Didier Drogba can clearly be seen pulling down Wes Brown in the penalty area. Sir Alex Ferguson was seething after the game and in March 2011 he was even more angry, stating that Martin Atkinson wasn’t ‘strong enough’ to referee a match as big as Chelsea against United. Atkinson’s late penalty given to Chelsea gave them another 2-1 win.
“I don’t know why he’s got the game. I must say that, when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst.”
Many other late goals have also cost United wins at Stamford Bridge, most recently on their last trip for a Premier League fixture in October 2018 when Ross Barkley struck in the 96th minute to make the score 2-2. In February 2016, Diego Costa equalised in the 91st minute to earn a 1-1 draw while Eden Hazard’s penalty to make the game level at 3-3 in the crazy 5-4 cup tie in 2012 came in the 94th minute. United will be hoping that come Monday they can hold out for the whole 90 minutes and whatever stoppage time is thrown at them.
They certainly had no problem in the 2-1 victory in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, limiting Chelsea to very few clear-cut chances after taking the lead through Marcus Rashford’s incredible free-kick. In the FA Cup tie last February United dominated the first half and also restricted Chelsea to next to nothing in the second half.
Chelsea will no doubt be out for revenge after their opening day humiliation at Old Trafford and their cup exit, but United have shown on their last two visits that they can weather a storm and get a vital result. Although Monday night’s referee has not yet be confirmed, United and in particular Ferguson will be hoping it’s not a certain Martin Atkinson.
Written by Alex Metcalfe