#ThrowbackThursday - Man United v Chelsea: Part Three - 1984 to 2000 

On returning to top tier football in 1984/85, Chelsea’s first meeting with Man United came in early September.  Chelsea were managed by John Neal, while Ron Atkinson was in his third season at the helm at Old Trafford.  The two sides played out a 1-1 draw, with Danish international Jasper Olsen on target for United and former Red Mickey Thomas scoring for Chelsea.  The return fixture came in the interim between Christmas and New Year.  Man United stood in third place and two points behind league leaders Spurs.  Chelsea meanwhile were eighth and eight points off of the top.  The game was captured by ITV’s ‘The Big Match’.  Gordon Davies gave Chelsea the lead; however goals for Remi Moses, Frank Stapleton and Mark Hughes gave Man United a 3-1 win.  There was also a missed penalty for Chelsea’s Kerry Dixon.

Man United finished 1984/85 in fourth place, while Chelsea finished sixth.  Over the summer, former Blues player John Hollins took over as Chelsea manager.  In 1985/86, the first meeting between Chelsea and Man United came at the end of October at Stamford Bridge. Man United were unbeaten after fourteen games and a mammoth ten points clear at the top of the table built on a record run of eleven straight victories.  Chelsea in contrast stood fourteen points behind in fifth.


The first half of the 1985/86 season had been lost to TV coverage due to a dispute between the TV companies and the Football League over a TV deal.  The whole of United’s unbeaten run however was caught by private video, and as seen from this YouTube video below @01.34, so too was coverage of their visit to Stamford Bridge.  In the event, goals for Jasper Olsen and Mark Hughes gave Man United a 2-1 victory, while Joe McLaughlin was on target for the Blues. 

By the time of the return fixture between the two sides at Old Trafford in April 1986, the picture had changed somewhat.  The TV cameras had returned and United had been caught up by both Merseyside teams.  They trailed league leaders Liverpool in third by two points.  Chelsea also were not out of the title race and stood seven points off the top spot in fifth with two games in hand over Liverpool.  The action was captured by ITV’s ‘Midweek Sports Special’.  Two goals for Kerry Dixon gave Chelsea a 2-1 win, while Jasper Olsen would be on target for Ron Atkinson’s side from the penalty spot.

A disappointed Man United side finished the season in fourth place and twelve points off of Double winners Liverpool.  The Scousers secured the title at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 win, the Blues finishing sixth.  United’s poor form continued into 1986/87.  When Chelsea visited Old Trafford at the end of September, United had only won one of their first seven games, with five defeats and had been second from bottom.  Chelsea feared little better, two points ahead of United in eighteenth place.  The game was captured live by ITV’s ‘The Big Match’.  A Kerry Dixon goal gave Chelsea a 1-0 victory.   

By the time Man United came to Chelsea in February 1987, Ron Atkinson had been sacked and replaced by Alex Ferguson installed at the helm.  United were unbeaten in five games and had managed to climb up to twelfth place.  Chelsea languished in sixteenth place and six points from the relegation zone with fourteen games left to play.  Nigel Spackman had made his last appearance for Chelsea before transferring to Liverpool.  Terry Gibson had put the ball over the line, though Man United were not given the goal.  Peter Davenport put United ahead from the penalty spot.  However after a mazy run from Pat Nevin, Micky Hazard equalised for Chelsea to earn a 1-1 draw.  Man United went on to finish Alex Ferguson’s first season in eleventh place.  Chelsea meanwhile finished 1986/87 in fourteenth place.

In 1987/88, Chelsea came to Old Trafford at the end of August.  United were unbeaten in their first four games with two draws and two victories, standing in fifth place.  Chelsea were in third place with three wins out of four.  Goals for Gordon Strachan, a superb overhead kick from Brian McClair and Norman Whiteside earned Man United a 3-1 win, while on target for Chelsea was John McNaught who had made his final appearance for Chelsea before moving on to Partick Thistle.    

The next meeting between the two sides came in the fourth round of the FA Cup at the end of January 1988.  The game was captured by the BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’.  Goals for Brian McClair after missing an earlier penalty and Norman Whiteside gave Man United a 2-0 victory in front of 50,716 spectators.  Man United progressed as far as the fifth round in the FA Cup until they were eliminated by a 1-2 defeat to Arsenal at Highbury.

Two weeks later, the two sides met at what was an eyesore of a Stamford Bridge stadium, in the league.  Man United stood in second place in the table, though twelve points behind an unbeaten Liverpool side having played two games more.  Chelsea in contrast had failed to win a game since the end of October.  Goals for Liam O’Brien and a first goal for Steve Bruce gave Man United a 2-1 win, while Colin West had been on target for Chelsea. 

The Blues were in freefall for the remainder of the season and sacked manager John Hollins, replacing him with Bobby Campbell to attempt to arrest their decline.  The Blues failed to win another game until April.  Chelsea finished in eighteenth place, which then meant involvement in the play offs to keep their place in the top flight.  Chelsea lost a two legged play off final with Middlesbrough who came up in their place, with Chelsea dropping back to the second tier after a five year spell in the top flight.  Chelsea came back as second tier Champions in 1988/89.  On their return their first meeting with Man United came in late November 1989, in what would be the final meeting between the two sides of the 1980s. 

After fourteen games, Chelsea had a good start to the season and stood in second place and a point behind reigning champions Arsenal.  Man United in contrast, after a poor start to the season despite a spending spree over the summer and early months of the season that saw the introduction of Gary Pallister, Mike Phelan, Paul Ince and Neil Webb.  Alex Ferguson’s side however had climbed up to ninth on the back of four wins out of five.  The two sides however played out a 0-0 draw.

The return fixture and first game between the two sides during the 1990s came in late February at Stamford Bridge.  Man United stood in sixteenth place and were only separated by a three point cushion from the relegation zone.  Chelsea meanwhile were in eighth position.  A goal for Gareth Hall gave Chelsea a 1-0 victory.  Man United ended the season in thirteenth place and just five points from the relegation zone.  Chelsea meanwhile finished a respectable fifth place and their highest league finish for twenty years.  

In 1990/91, the two sides met at the end of November at Old Trafford.  After thirteen games, Chelsea had won just three games and had dropped to fifteenth place.  Man United in contrast were fifth, but eighteen points behind league leaders Liverpool.  Coverage of the game was captured live by ITV’s ‘The Match’.  A Gary Pallister own goal gave Chelsea the lead, with Andy Townsend doubling Chelsea’s lead with his first goal for Chelsea within minutes.  A Danny Wallace header pulled one back for United.  Into the second half, United equalised with a Mark Hughes header.  With thirteen minutes to go however, a Dennis Wise conversion from the penalty spot however secured a 3-2 away win for Chelsea.     

The return fixture followed three months later, in early March 1991.  By this time, Man United were sixth in the table and seventeen points behind league leaders Arsenal.  Chelsea meanwhile were three points behind in ninth place.  Mark Hughes gave Man United the lead, before Gordon Durie equalised before half time.  Australian born Tony Dorigo then put Chelsea ahead.  Brian McClair equalised, however with five minutes to go Dutchman Ken Monkou got Chelsea’s winner to secure a 3-2 victory for the Blues.

Man United finished 1990/91 in sixth place, though on English football’s re-entry to European competition after the post-Heysel ban had won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the very first season after re-entry.  Chelsea meanwhile finished eleventh.  In 1991/92, the two sides met ten days before Christmas at Stamford Bridge.  Man United were second in the table, two points behind league leaders Leeds United but with two games in hand.  Chelsea meanwhile were twelfth.  A Dennis Irwin goal from a free kick opened the scoring for Man United.  Brian McClair doubled United’s lead in the second half.  A Steve Bruce penalty then put United three up.  Chelsea pulled one back with a diving header from Clive Allen, however it wasn’t enough to prevent a 3-1 win for Man United. 

The return fixture at Old Trafford occurred at the end of February 1992.  Man United by now had topped the table with a four point lead over Leeds United in second place.  Chelsea meanwhile were now seventh in the table.  Man United defender Mal Donaghy had over hit a back pass to Keeper Peter Schmeichel which found itself into the Man United, gift wrapping Chelsea their opening goal.  Three minutes from full time a thumping shot from Mark Hughes earned Man United a point.  This turned out to be the final fixture between the two sides during the pre-Premiership era.

The first Premiership meeting between Chelsea and Man United came six days before Christmas 1992.  Man United had a poor start to Premiership life after losing their first three games of the 1992/93 season.  Their fortunes however transformed on signing Eric Cantona from Leeds United a month earlier.  By the time of their visit to Stamford Bridge they were sitting in third place, six points off of Premiership leaders Norwich City.  Chelsea meanwhile stood one point behind in fourth place.  David Lee gave Chelsea the lead on sixty seven minutes, while Eric Cantona equalised four minutes later to earn United a 1-1 draw.

By the time of the return fixture in late April, Man United were one point clear of second place Aston Villa with just three games left to play with hopes of winning their first league title in twenty six years.  Chelsea meanwhile parted company with Bobby Campbell, with 1970 Cup Final hero Dave Webb stepping in until the close of the season.   The Blues at the time stood in seventh place.  Goals for Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona and a Steve Clarke own goal gave Man United a 3-0 win and a four point cushion over Villa.  Just over a fortnight later, Man United had secured the inaugural Premiership title after a 0-1 home defeat for Aston Villa against Oldham Athletic meant that the Reds could not be caught at the top.

Man United’s red hot form carried into 1993/94, with high hopes of becoming the first side in a decade to retain their league title.  In their first six games, Alex Ferguson’s side managed five wins and one draw and had topped the Premiership table.  Chelsea in contrast, after just one win in six had languished in fifteenth place.  Over the summer, Glenn Hoddle had taken over as boss at Stamford Bridge as Player manager after securing Swindon’s place in the Premiership via the play offs.  Man United had suffered their first loss of the season after a Gavin Peacock goal secured a 1-0 win for the Blues.

By the time of Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford in early March 1994, that defeat had been Man United’s only domestic loss in all competitions as Alex Ferguson’s side were not only seven points clear at the top over the table with a game in hand, but also still in the FA Cup and in the final of the League Cup.  Chelsea meanwhile languished in eighteenth place with just seven wins out of twenty eight league games played.  Man United however succumbed to another Gavin Peacock goal and suffered a 0-1 home defeat to Glenn Hoddle’s side.

Man United lost the League Cup Final to Aston Villa at Wembley, but secured their second successive League title by May with an eight point cushion over runners up Blackburn Rovers.  Chelsea in contrast finished fourteenth.  The two sides however were to meet in the 1993/94 FA Cup Final at Wembley, with Man United hoping to become only the fourth side of the twentieth century to win the League and FA Cup Double.  Chelsea by this point – aside from the 1986 Full Members Cup - hadn’t won a major trophy since winning the European Cup Winners Cup twenty three years earlier.  The final was covered by the BBC, with the usual three hour pre-match build up with a light entertainment touch 

In the event, the two sides went in at half time goalless.  Chelsea held Man United until around the hour mark when referee David Ellery awarded a penalty against Chelsea for an Eddie Newton foul on Dennis Irwin inside the box.  Eric Cantona had stepped up for the first penalty.  Dennis Wise had tried his hand at sledging the French star prior to taking his kick, but it seemed that Cantona was having none of it and successfully converted.  Within five minutes, another penalty was awarded against Chelsea for a Frank Sinclair challenge on Andrei Kanchelskis.  Cantona again converted to Double United’s lead. 

Four minutes later, the wet conditions led to a slip from Frank Sinclair which allowed Mark Hughes in to add a third and cap a poor nine minutes for Chelsea.  Substitute Brian McClair added a fourth for United, with the Double secured by Alex Ferguson’s side with a 4-0 win. 

The next meeting between the two sides came on Boxing Day 1994 at a revamped Stamford Bridge ground, now minus the dog track on the outskirts of the pitch. Man United stood in second place and two points behind Premiership leaders Blackburn Rovers.  Chelsea in contrast stood eighth.  Mark Hughes gave Man United the lead on twenty minutes.  Just after the restart.  An Eric Cantona penalty from a Frank Sinclair foul on Roy Keane put Man United two goals up.  A John Spencer penalty just before the hour pulled one back for Chelsea and with thirteen minutes to go, a goal for Eddie Newton pulled Chelsea level.  One minute later however, a goal for Brian McClair secured a 3-2 away win for Man United. 

The return fixture at Old Trafford took place on Easter Monday in mid-April 1995.  Man United were now six points adrift of Blackburn Rovers at the top of the Premiership table.  Chelsea meanwhile stood in fourteenth position and only four points clear of the relegation zone.  The two sides however played out a 0-0 draw.  Man United eventually lost their title to Blackburn Rovers, as well as the FA Cup Final to Everton to end 1994/95 trophy-less.  Chelsea meanwhile finished eleventh, as well as reaching the Semi Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup but were eliminated by eventual winners Real Zaragoza.  

In 1995/96, Man United came to Stamford Bridge in late October.  After nine games, Man United stood second and four points off of Premiership leaders Newcastle United.  Chelsea meanwhile – who over the summer signed Dutch star Ruud Gullit from Italian side Sampdoria – had won four of their first nine games and standing in ninth place.  A Double strike from twenty year old Paul Scholes in the first ten minutes gave Man United a two goal lead.  With fifteen minutes to go, former long serving Man United legend Mark Hughes – who transferred to Stamford Bridge over the summer – pulled one back for Man United.  In the final twelve minutes however, goals for Ryan Giggs and Brian McClair rounded off a 4-1 win for Man United.  In the final minutes, Chelsea’s woe was compounded with the sending off of Frank Sinclair.     

The return fixture at Old Trafford for 1995/96 came six weeks later in early December.  Man United stood second, four points behind Premiership leaders Newcastle United having played one game more.  Chelsea in contrast were eleventh in the table.  Dennis Wise gave Chelsea the lead eight minutes into the second half, while David Beckham equalised to earn a 1-1 draw.   

Man United eventually closed the gap on Newcastle at the top and were also progressing well in the FA Cup.  For the honour of becoming only the third side of the twentieth century to reach three straight finals - after Arsenal from 1978-80 and Everton from 1984-86 – Man United had to get past Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final at Villa Park on the last day of March 1996.  Ruud Gullit gave Chelsea the lead with ten minutes to go until half time.  In the second half however, goals from Andy Cole and David Beckham earned Man United a 2-1 win and their passage to a third straight final.  After winning back their title in May, Man United became the first side to win the Double twice – just two years on from their first Double – beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. Chelsea meanwhile finished the season mid-table.

After Euro ’96, Glenn Hoddle quit Stamford Bridge to take over the poisoned chalice of the England job from the outgoing Terry Venables.  Ruud Gullit took over as Blues Player Manager.  Their first visit to Old Trafford during the Ruud Gullit era came in the first week of November 1996.  United were undergoing an extremely rare losing streak at the time.  The previous fortnight included a 0-5 away loss to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, a 3-6 hammering from Southampton at the Dell and a 0-1 home defeat to Turkish side Fenerbahce in the group phase of the Champions League.  Man United stood in fifth place, ahead of Chelsea by a goal difference of +2 in sixth.


Both sides were five points behind Premiership leaders Arsenal.  United’s misery continued as goals for Michael Duberry and Gianluca Vialli put the Blues two up by the hour mark.  Nine minutes from time a goal from David May was not enough to save United from a fourth straight defeat, as Chelsea picked up a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

The return fixture at Old Trafford came in late February 1997.  Man United had worked their way back up to the top of the table, one point clear of Liverpool in second place.  Chelsea meanwhile were twelve points behind in sixth, but with two games in hand.  A crowd of 28,324 saw Gianfranco Zola give Chelsea the lead on two minutes.  The Blues held the lead before David Beckham equalised on sixty eight minutes.  With no further scoring, the game ended in a 1-1 draw. 

Man United ended up retaining their title in 1996/97 with a seven point margin over Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool on equal points in second, third and fourth respectively.  Chelsea finished sixth, but secured their first trophy in twenty six years by winning the 1997 FA Cup Final.  This meant that the pair would meet in the Charity Shield at the start of the 1997/98 season.  Former Man United star Mark Hughes gave Chelsea the lead six minutes into the second half.  Five minutes later, Ronny Johnsen equalised for Man United.  The game finished 1-1 in normal time.  The game went to a penalty shoot-out.  Penalty misses for Frank Sinclair and Roberto Di Matteo meant that Man United won the Shield 4-2 on penalties.

In the Premiership, the two sides met in Late September 1997 at Old Trafford.  Man United topped the table, unbeaten after seven games and winning five of those.  Chelsea meanwhile were five points behind in fifth.  The previous Saturday, after a run of five straight wins, the Blues had lost a two goal lead over Arsenal to suffer a 2-3 defeat.  Three days later, Chelsea took the lead at Old Trafford with an open goal for Chelsea.  Into the second half, Mark Hughes scored another aqainst his old club, to restore Chelsea’s lead, which was held until four minutes from time, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer equalised for United in a 2-2 draw.

The two sides met again in early January after being drawn against each other in the third round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge.  The Cup holders found themselves on the receiving end of a hammering.  By half time, two goals for David Beckham (reacting to taunts about his then girlfriend Victoria ‘Posh Spice’ Adams from the Stamford Bridge crowd in his goal celebration) and another for Andy Cole meant that United were three up at half time.  Into the second half, another for Andy Cole, as well as a strike from Teddy Sheringham meant that United were five goals up with sixteen minutes remaining.  In the last twelve minutes, goals for Graeme Le Saux and two for Gianluca Vialli restored some pride for Chelsea, but couldn’t prevent a 5-3 victory for Man United.   

Man United’s return to Stamford Bridge in the League came around eight weeks later on the last day of February 1998, by which point Chelsea had sacked Ruud Gullit and replaced him with Gianluca Vialli as Player Manager.  United topped the Premiership table by nine points over runners up Arsenal, though the Gunners had two games in hand over United.  A goal for Phillip Neville gave Man United a 1-0 win.  Man United however would be overhauled by Arsenal and finish 1997/98 trophy-less.  All trophies that season ended up in London, as Arsenal won the League and FA Cup Double while Chelsea took the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup.  The Blues also finished fourth in the Premiership table.  

In 1998/99, Chelsea came to Old Trafford nine days before Christmas.  After seventeen games, Man United were second in the table, three points behind Aston Villa at the top of the table.  Chelsea meanwhile were a point behind United in fourth place.  Andy Cole put Man United ahead on the stroke of half time, however Gianfranco Zola equalised to secure a point for Chelsea with seven minutes left to play.

The return fixture took place just thirteen days on, in the interim between Christmas and New Year 1998.  Chelsea had by now overhauled Man United in the league table, standing in second place and three points behind Aston Villa, but with a game in hand.  Man United stood two points behind in fourth having played equal number of games with Chelsea.  The two sides played out a 0-0 draw.   

The two sides met again in the FA Cup for the second season running – this time in the Quarter Finals at Old Trafford in early March.  The tie ended in a 0-0 draw in front of a crowd of 54,587.  The replay took place at Old Trafford three days later.  Two goals for Dwight Yorke in each half gave United a 2-0 win to progress to a Semi Final clash with Arsenal at Villa Park the following month.  Another notable thing about this game is the Bebeto circa USA ’94 style baby rocking goal celebration, as six days prior Posh Spice gave birth to David Beckham’s first son Brooklyn.   

The 1998/99 season was where Man United went on to complete their unprecedented treble of the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League.  Chelsea’s season ended trophy-less – however had only lost three games in the League and finished only four points behind Man United in third.  In 1999/2000, the last meeting between the two sides of the twentieth century came in early October.  Man United topped the Premiership table after nine games, having won six and drew three.  Chelsea with five wins out of seven stood in seventh place.  Man United hadn’t lost a competitive game in any competition since December, though with the exit of Peter Schmeichel were suffering something of a goalkeeping crisis.

One week earlier, a calamitous error from Massimo Taibi – standing in for an injured Mark Bosnich – had costed the Reds two points in a 3-3 home draw with Southampton.  One paper dubbed Taibi 'The Blind Venetian'.  His poor luck continued at Stamford Bridge.  Just twenty eight seconds into this contest, Man United found themselves one down to a Gus Poyet goal.  Chris Sutton added a second on the quarter hour for Chelsea to go into half time two goals up.  Nine minutes into the second half, Poyet scored his second and Chelsea’s third.  An own goal for Henning Berg and a Jody Morris goal nine minutes from time meant a humiliating 5-0 drubbing for Fergie’s side.

The return fixture back at Old Trafford – the first meeting between these two sides during the new Millennium - occurred in Late April 2000.  Man United were thirteen points clear at the top of the Premiership table with just four games to play, meaning that the title had already been wrapped up.  Chelsea meanwhile stood in fifth place and were trailing a Champions League spot by four points having played one game more.  Dwight Yorke gave United the lead after ten minutes.  Goals for Dan Petrescu and Gianfranco Zola however put Chelsea two one up at half time.  In the second half however goals for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and another for Dwight Yorke meant a 3-2 win for United. 

Chelsea finished the 1999/2000 season in fifth place and only able to secure UEFA Cup Football for the following season.  They did however become the last side to win the FA Cup at the old Wembley – a competition which Man United famously declined to enter due to their commitments in the World Club Championship in Brazil in January 2000.  As will be seen tomorrow in part four, the fixture would continue to be a highlight of the season going into the next century, despite a brief relative decline for Chelsea in the first few years of the noughties.