Thomas Tuchel will make his first trip to Old Trafford as Chelsea head coach on Thursday night. For outsiders, many will likely lean towards a Chelsea win, given the form of both sides.
Although the Blues have lost two of their last five Premier League games, the mess at Manchester United, losing three of their last five, has created an expectation of underperformance from a squad lacking direction.
But those who know their history, particularly of a Chelsea persuasion, will not feel as confident heading into the game. And based on history, they are right to. Next month will mark nine years since the Blues’ last victory at Old Trafford.
IIt was 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson was in his final weeks of management after claiming one more Premier League crown, whilst the disliked Rafael Benitez aimed to secure Champions League qualification for Chelsea before his interim reign concluded.
A gaze over the two matchday squads highlights how much has changed since. Cesar Azpilicueta is the only player involved in 2013’s clash that will be involved on Thursday night.
In Chelsea’s XI: Petr Cech, Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Oscar, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Demba Ba.
In Man United’s: Anders Lindegaard, Rafael, Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Micheal Carrick, Phil Jones, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs and Robin Van Persie.
Ferguson had put out a weakened side after winning the league title days earlier. Chelsea had more to play for and always looked like the team most willing to get a winner in a pretty tame affair.
It was to be Juan Mata’s 87th-minute strike, deflected off Phil Jones, that would creep into the corner of the net, sparking Mata to run off towards the travelling mass of blue behind the corner flag.
It was a big goal, one that put Chelsea on the brink of Champions League qualification, something they would confirm a week later at Villa Park with Frank Lampard becoming the Blues’ all-time leading goalscorer.
This was a period when Mata, the elegant playmaker, was the heartbeat of Chelsea’s team, a player beloved by supporters and one who seemed to only be growing in stature – this winner was his 16th goal of an influential season.
Few could have imagined at that point, only eight months later, he would no longer be a Chelsea player. Sold to Manchester United after becoming a forgotten man after Jose Mourinho’s return.
Mata is still missed by supporters for his class, though his sale did not halt a league title triumph under Mourinho by 2015 as Eden Hazard, a player finding his feet in English football, would be the one netting a goal in a 1-0 win over United at Stamford Bridge under two years later.
The game’s other notable moment was the red card for Rafael for a reckless challenge on David Luiz, sparking that now-iconic grin from the Brazillian towards the angered Stretford End shouting at the defender on the turf.
It would be curious now to jump in a time machine and speak to a supporter of both sides at full-time. Explaining to the United fan that after that season, their club would not win another title for nine years (still counting) and go through six coaches.
Whilst explaining to the Chelsea fan that despite all the incoming chaos at United, the Londoners would go the same amount of time without another win at Old Trafford.
“So it is time,” Tuchel said on Wednesday for one of those waits to finally end.
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