Date:Thursday November 5 2009
United visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday with the slim hope of getting something against in-form Chelsea. We are in bad form, we'll miss key players - and even history isn't on our side as we haven't been able to win at Chelsea since 2002.
Back then United were chasing an unprecedented fourth league title - as we're doing now - but Chelsea weren't title contenders, they were struggling to reach the last Champions League place. They ultimately failed to do so, not least to this game.
Though United were obviously the better team back then Chelsea had been preparing for the clash with confidence after beating United 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season. We were chasing Arsenal, two points ahead with a game in hand while even Houllier's Liverpool were ahead of us in second place. The table looked like this:
1. Arsenal 72 (33 games)
. Liverpool 71 (34)
. Manchester United (34)
A defeat at Chelsea would have spelt the end of our slim title hopes and our worst fears looked set to come true as the Blues dominated the opening minutes. But United held firm then went ahead with an absolutely superb free-kick from Paul Scholes and from that moment on we never looked like losing.
Cudicini denied Van Nistelrooy on 21 minutes but 20 minutes later Solskjaer released the Dutchman once more and he rounded the keeper to slot into the empty net.
United were clearly enjoying themselves in the second half and only Cudicini kept the scoreline respectable for Chelsea but in the end Van Nistelrooy set up Giggs who, instead of crowning his own brilliant display with a goal, presented Solskjaer with an even easier finish and the rout was completed, the defeat at Old Trafford properly avenged.
Of the players playing that day, Lampard and Terry will certainly be on the pitch on Sunday while Scholes, Giggs, Brown and O'Shea (an unused substitute back then) might feature for United. But the circumstances are different, too: this time Chelsea are the better team and they are the main threat to our Premier League crown. To be honest, I expect a similarly one-sided thrashing like what we witnessed in April 2002 - but United will take the damage this time.
Date:Thursday November 5 2009
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|3. Man Utd||8||5||1||2||+4||16|
|4. Crystal Palace||8||5||0||3||+4||15|
|5. Leicester City||8||4||3||1||+2||15|
|6. West Ham||8||4||2||2||+6||14|
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