North vs south, red vs blue, style vs substance. Manchester United and Chelsea have enjoyed a storied rivalry over the past 20 years or so in particular, and whether duking it out for domestic honours or continental glory this is a fixture to admire for its blood, guts and thunder battle rather than goals, entertainment and nods to the beautiful game.
Every time they meet there is typically something on the line, and the clash at Old Trafford on Sunday will be no different: these sides are desperately scrapping for points in the race for a top four finish.
The rivalry has been given added spice of late by the bitterness that exists between United (and former Chelsea) manager Jose Mourinho and his counterpart at the Blues, Antonio Conte. Here are some of the best barbs they have fired at each other in recent times:
Mourinho vs Conte – The War of Words
Mourinho, October 2016
“You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0, you can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”
The Special One was forced to eat humble pie after his employer Manchester United were humbled at Stamford Bridge in a 0-4 rout, and Mourinho was visibly disgruntled at the final whistle as he went in for the customary post-match handshake with his opposite number. A bitter rivalry was born.
Conte, November 2016
“Moses has important qualities: technique, physical strength, the ability to cover 70 metres of the pitch. I find it incredible that someone like him has been overlooked.”
One of the ‘finds’ of Chelsea’s Premier League title winning season was Victor Moses, the attacker-turned-wing back who became a key figure in Conte’s 3-4-3 revolution. The Nigerian had been traditionally overlooked – particularly by Mourinho, and spent numerous spells out of the club on loan. His renaissance gave Conte plenty of ammunition to fire the United boss’ way.
Conte, March 2017
“He started the game, but he couldn’t play football. Everyone could see this so can judge the situation.”
After a particularly fractious FA Cup quarter final which Chelsea won 1-0, Antonio Conte lamented the physical tactics of Mourinho’s players, which saw Ander Herrera sent off. The Italian referred to the treatment of his star player Eden Hazard, who was given a particularly rough time of it by Herrera and co.
Conte, April 2017
“I think this season it’s very important to understand that it’s not always who spends more money who wins. This season isn’t the only season the Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money. Look at the past. It’s normal.”
Basking in his imminent title glory, Conte took the opportunity to aim another pipe bomb in Mourinho’s direction, mocking the £150 million he spent on players without bringing success to the club.
Conte, July 2017
“Two years ago Chelsea finished 10th. That cannot happen again. We know the difficulty and for sure we want to avoid the Mourinho season with Chelsea.”
Mourinho, July 2017
“I could answer in many different ways, but I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte.”
The Italian’s jibe would have hurt Mourinho, a proud man who has spoken of his heartbreak at how his time at Chelsea came to an end. How could the Special One retort? He got personal, mocking Conte’s well-publicised hair transplant.
Mourinho, January 2018
“Because I don’t behave as a clown on the touchline, it means that I lost my passion?”
When asked if he still had the desire and hunger to win so deep into his managerial career, Mourinho’s response was a clear attack on the occasionally over-the-top touchline antics of his opposite number at Chelsea. Conte responded by saying Mourinho had ‘demenza senile’ – the Italian for senile dementia.
Mourinho, January 2018
“What never happened to me – and will never happen – is to be suspended for match-fixing. That never happened to me and will never happen.”
Conte, January 2018
“I think when there are these types of comments, comments where you try to offend the person and don’t know the truth, then you are a little man.”
Mourinho showed his vindictive side once again by bringing up the match-fixing allegations that dogged Conte’s spell at Juventus completely out of context.
As you can see, there is a lot more at stake at Old Trafford on Sunday than just three points!
The Head to Head
Since Conte took over at the helm of Chelsea in July 2016, there have been four meetings between the two sides:
- October 23rd, 2016: Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United
- March 13th, 2017: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
- April 16th, 2017: Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea
- November 5th, 2017: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
From a betting perspective, the last three have all failed to breach the 2.5 goal line, with both teams to score failing to land in all three. In a match where passion, pride and points are all stake, there’s a strong chance that Sunday’s clash in Manchester may just follow a similar pattern.