#ThrowbackThursday - Chelsea v Man United: Part One - 1905 to 1962
The first meeting between Chelsea and Manchester United occurred in the Second Division of the Football League on Christmas Day 1905. Chelsea FC were founded just nine months earlier with the aim of producing revenue for Gus Mears who bought Stamford Bridge Athletics Stadium the previous year and the offer to Fulham FC to play their home games there was turned down. The Blues were immediately admitted into the Football League and at that time were only the Capital City’s second League side, after Woolwich Arsenal. Manchester United in contrast had at this point been in existence for seventeen years and members of the League since 1892.
The first meeting between the two sides took place at Manchester United’s original home of Bank Street in front of 35,000 people. At the time, Man Utd. were second in the table after five straight wins and two points behind Bristol City at the top of the table. Chelsea on the other hand were five points behind Chelsea in third place and were unbeaten for the previous seven games. The match between the two sides however ended goalless. The return League fixture later that season took place at Stamford Bridge on Good Friday 1906, with Manchester United still in second place, but now five points behind Bristol City at the top. Chelsea on the other hand were now just one point behind Man United in third place.
Both sides were in form, having won five of their last six matches.
With the two sides battling for a promotion place, the match was played out in front of 67,000 and ended in a 1-1 draw with Tommy McDermott on target for the Blues, while Charles Sagar was on target for Man United. For the remainder of the 1905/06 season, Man United finished strongly with five straight wins. Chelsea in contrast failed to bag a win for the rest of the season, with two straight draws followed by two defeats. Man United finished the season as Second tier runners up, nine points ahead of Chelsea in third under a two points for a win system. The two sides therefore did not meet again until Chelsea won promotion to the old First Division as runners up in 1906/07.
Man United visited Stamford Bridge in late September 1907 in second place having won four of their first five fixtures. Chelsea – now under the management of David Calderhead who would manage the Blues for the next twenty seven years - in contrast were struggling to adapt to life in the top tier after four matches – losing three and winning just one. The Blues’ poor form continued after United secured the first win of this fixture, coming back from West London with a 4-1 win secured by goal from James Bannister, Sandy Turnbull and two goals from Man United’s first superstar player - Billy Meredith.
The return fixture back at Bank Street occurred in late January with United six points clear at the top of the table, while Chelsea lay in sixteenth place.
A goal for Jimmy Turnball gave United both points and moved the Manchester side a step nearer to their first league title, which was secured the following May. The first ever Cup fixture between the two sides occurred one week later at the same venue. Man United eliminated Chelsea from the FA Cup in the Second round, with a 1-0 secured by a goal from Sandy Turnbull. Chelsea’s first victory over Man United would come in early November 1907, after a George Hilsdon penalty gave them a 1-0 win at Bank Street.
Chelsea’s first visit to Man United’s new Old Trafford home occurred on Boxing Day 1912. The two sides met the previous day, with United leaving Stamford Bridge with a gift wrapped three points after a 4-1 win. Chelsea’s Christmas misery continued twenty four hours on after two goals from Sandy Turnbull gave United a 4-2 victory. The final game between the two sides before the First World War occurred in mid-April 1915, in what was the penultimate game of the season. At the time, Man United were anchored to the bottom of the table while Chelsea were in seventeenth place, just two points ahead of Man United.
The Reds left Stamford Bridge with both points after a 3-1 win, which left both sides hovering just one point above the relegation zone with one game to play. United won their final game of the season with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford. Chelsea meanwhile lost 0-2 away to Notts County. This meant that just one point separated the two sides with Chelsea initially relegated after finishing second from bottom and Man United one point above them in safety. Afterwards however, it came to light that United’s fixture with Liverpool was at the centre of a match fixing scandal which led to life bans for Man United’s Sandy Turnbull, Arthur Whalley and Enoch West, as well as Liverpool’s Jackie Sheldon, Tom Miller, Bob Pursell and Tom Fairfoul.
After the First World War, the old First Division would be extended from twenty to twenty two sides, meaning that rather than Chelsea be relegated as a result of this match fixing scandal, they would be reinstated in the top tier. Man United as a club did not receive punishment and also went on to play in the top tier when football resumed in 1919/20. The first fixture after the First World War between the two sides came in early January 1920 at Old Trafford, with the humorously named Jack Cock scoring both goals for Chelsea. The Blues fell out of the top tier in 1923/24, as did United a couple of years earlier in 1921/22.
The 1924/25 season therefore would be the last time both sides would play each other in the League outside of the top tier of English football – the final fixture being a 0-0 draw between the two sides at Stamford Bridge in mid-April 1925. Man United finished as runners up in the old Second Division that term and returned to the top tier. Chelsea would also return after finishing as second tier runners up in 1929/30. The first fixture between the two sides on their return would come in early September 1930, with Man United having lost their first two fixtures. Chelsea made it three defeats on the bounce after thumping Man United 6-2 at Stamford Bridge, with two goals from the famed Hughie Gallacher, making his home debut having signed from Newcastle that year.
Man United would finish the 1930/31 season rock bottom of the old First Division and would not return back to the top tier until finishing as second tier Champions in 1935/36. Their first visit to Stamford Bridge on coming back up was in late February 1937. Chelsea would be mired in mid-table, while Man United were anchored to the bottom of the table having not won a game since New Years’ Day. A crowd of only 16,382 saw Chelsea beat Man United 4-2. By the end of the 1936/37 season, Chelsea finished in mid-table, while Man United - after suffering the indignity of seeing Man City win the title that season - had to endure finishing second from bottom and returning to the second tier after just one season.
In 1937/38, United returned to the top flight as runners up in the second tier.
Seven games into their return to the top flight, United had won just one game before facing a visit from a Chelsea in third place. Man United ran out 5-1 winners. The following January, Man United did the double over Chelsea with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in what was the last meeting between the two sides before the Second World War. At the time, United sat in mid table comfort. By the end of the season however, both Man United and Chelsea were languishing around the bottom of the table. With three games to go, Chelsea were sitting second from bottom, while United were in nineteenth place. Chelsea eventually avoided the drop by one point, where five points above them were Man United in fourteenth.
During the Second World War, Matt Busby made three appearances for Chelsea while also serving as a football coach in the Army Physical Training Corps. Building on this coaching experience, in the dying days of the Second World War in February 1945, Matt Busby actually arrived at Old Trafford in his army uniform to accept the role of managing Man. United. Just two games into Busby’s first league season, he took his United side to Stamford Bridge in early September. Busby’s side ran out 3-0 winners with goals from Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley and Charlie Mitten. As Man United came to be runners up in the old Division One for four years out of five, Chelsea were unable to secure a win over United for the rest of the 1940s. Highlights for Busby’s side included a 4-0 away win at Stamford Bridge in late November 1947 with a hat-trick for Johnny Morris.
Man United were forced to play their home games at Maine Road in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and in April 1948 picked up a 5-0 win over Chelsea at their adopted home.
Chelsea’s first post war home win over United came in the FA Cup Quarter Final in early March 1950. The Pensioners ran out 2-0 winners at Stamford Bridge with goals for Roy Bentley and Bobby Campbell, which set up a Semi Final clash with Arsenal, though the Blues would be eliminated by their London rivals in the following round. Their first post war win in the League over United came the following November, with a 1-0 win in front of 51,882 fans. After going so close for the first five years after the war, United were looking to close in on their first League title for forty one years. In Late April 1952, Matt Busby’s side were level on points with Arsenal as Chelsea came to visit Old Trafford in the penultimate game. Man United ran out 3-0 winners, while Arsenal would crash to a 1-3 defeat away to West Brom. United were virtually assured the title on the back of this win, as Arsenal would visit Old Trafford the following week and would be required to win by seven clear goals to take the title back to Highbury. A 6-1 win for United however gave Matt Busby his first league title.
It would be Chelsea’s turn to win a title in 1954/55 under former Arsenal striker Ted Drake, with a young side christened ‘Drake’s Ducklings’ in the national press. Similarly, Matt Busby would also be building a side based around youth that earned the moniker of the ‘Busby Babes’. Man United came to visit to Stamford Bridge in mid-October of that season, where this fixture would rain goals, as the two sides shared eleven goals. At the time Man United would lay in fourth place, while Chelsea in contrast would be languishing in ninth. Goals for Jackie Blanchflower, two for Tommy Taylor and a hat-trick for Dennis Viollet put Man United 6-3 ahead. Two late goals from Seamus O'Connell for Chelsea however pulled it back to 6-5, which was the final score.
As described by the Manchester Guardian: ‘With a roar of Hampden proportions urging them on, Chelsea strained every nerve to share the points…but somehow a rather shaky United defence held out to give their brilliant attack the reward they had so thoroughly earned’. That win put United atop of the old First Division. Chelsea meanwhile suffered four defeats on the bounce to put them twelfth by the end of October, though the following May won the League title by a four point margin. On the final day of the season however, Chelsea would crash to a 1-2 defeat to fifth place Man United at Old Trafford.
The following November, Man United would be involved in the title race and only kept off of the top of the table on goal average. Matt Busby’s side ran out 3-0 winners with goals for Roger Byrne and two for Tommy Taylor. By March 1956, Man United were six points clear at the top of the table at the time of visiting Stamford Bridge. United ran out 4-2 winners with goals for David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and two goals for Dennis Viollet. By May, United sealed the title for 1955/56, with an eleven point margin over second placed Blackpool under a two points for a win system. On the way to retaining the title in 1956/57, United met Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in September on the back of four straight wins.
Chelsea in contrast lay in nineteenth position. In front of 29,082 spectators, United ran out 2-1 winners with goals from Liam Whelan and Tommy Taylor. On New Years’ Day of 1957, Chelsea visited Old Trafford in the League. United were still top of the table, while Chelsea were languishing in thirteenth. United started the New Year with a 3-0 win with goals for Liam Whelan and two for Tommy Taylor. Chelsea’s next meeting with Man United would be nearly a year later, at Old Trafford eleven days before Christmas, in what would be the final appearances for Manchester United of both David Pegg and Liam Whelan – both of whom would perish in the Munich Air Crash around seven weeks later.
After back to back titles, Man United by this point would be some way off of the pace – eight points behind league leaders Wolves. A goal for Ron Tindall gave Chelsea their first victory at Old Trafford for thirty eight years, with a 1-0 win. By the time of United’s visit to Old Trafford on the final League fixture of the season in late April 1958, their squad had been decimated by the Munich Air Crash nearly three months prior. The disaster lead to the deaths of Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan, David Pegg and Geoff Bent among a total of twenty three fatalities. Since the Munich disaster in February, Man United had won just one league fixture in twelve games.
One consolation for Man United would be an appearance in the FA Cup Final against Bolton Wanderers the following week. United’s poor League form continued with a 1-2 defeat.
Man. United and Chelsea would ironically face each other again for the opening fixture of 1958/59. The Reds kicked off the season with a 5-2 win, with a hat-trick from Munich survivor Bobby Charlton and two goals for Alex Dawson. Meanwhile, both goals for Chelsea would be bagged by Jimmy Greaves. Five days before Christmas 1958 would be the return fixture at Stamford Bridge, which would be the earliest footage of the Chelsea v Man United fixture available on the internet’s video sharing sites. ITN cameras would capture a 3-2 win for Man United, giving them a fifth straight victory which pushed them up to seventh.
The first full season after the Munich disaster, Man Utd came second in the old First Division, however faced a decline in the few years that followed. At the same time, Chelsea would also face bottom half finishes over the next few seasons. After losing the first game of the 1959/60 season to West Brom 2-3 at the Hawthorns, Chelsea visited Old Trafford four days later. A goal for Jimmy Greaves inflicted a 0-1 defeat on Man United. The return fixture at Stamford Bridge occurred just one week later. Greaves would be on the scoresheet again for Chelsea, however goals for Bobby Charlton, Albert Quixall and two apiece for Dennis Viollet and Warren Bradley gave Man United a 6-3 win.
In 1960/61, Chelsea and Man United would play each other twice over forty eight hours over the Christmas period. On Christmas Eve at Stamford Bridge, Bobby Charlton would be on target as Man United ran out 2-1 winners. The return fixture at Old Trafford on Boxing Day saw United hammer Chelsea 6-0, with goals for Bobby Charlton, two for Jimmy Nicholson and a hat-trick for Alex Dawson. In 1961/62, for the third season in a row the two sides would play both league fixtures within a week. For the second game of the season, United defeated Chelsea 3-2. One week later however, Chelsea would run out 2-0 winners over United at Stamford Bridge.
At the end of the 1961/62 season, Chelsea would finish the season rock bottom of the old First Division and be relegated to the second tier. The following season however, Man United would be drawn against Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford. Goals for Albert Quixall and Dennis Law gave United a 2-1 win. The Reds would go on to win the FA Cup that year, picking up their first trophy since the Munich disaster, though would finish the season in nineteenth place and just three points off of the relegation zone. Chelsea would also spend just one season in the second tier, and under the guidance of Tommy Docherty as boss, secured promotion as runners up by goal average.
As will be seen tomorrow, both sides would return to form by the dawn of the television era and provide several televised classic encounters for the BBC’s fledgling highlights show ‘Match of the Day’.