Derby days are what make football special. The bragging rights that accompany your team’s victory in the North vs. South, or the East vs. West, are what football fans around the globe live for. English football poses an array of monumental derbies, loved for their atmosphere, importance and tenacity. The Merseyside, Manchester and North London derbies are perhaps the most notable in the Premier League, but in recent times a new derby has developed; one that disregards the geographical, and centres around success.
Last week, Chelsea hosted Manchester United in the FA Cup Quarter-Final, where N’Golo Kante’s goal saw the Blues progress to Wembley. Meetings between the two sides are never absent of significance, but Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge after numerous media-based digs at Conte’s team in the last few weeks upped the stakes.
“Judas is still number one” were the words that would have left a sour taste in the mouths of Blues fans, but a valid point nonetheless. While Chelsea fans were admirable in their backing of new boss Antonio Conte, to treat the club’s most successful manager in that way epitomises the feelings between these two clubs and their supporters.
The roles have certainly reversed and Mourinho is a huge factor in the modern feud between the two sides, angering fans of United with his touchline sprint as manager of Porto when his side won at Old Trafford back in 2004, alongside the general disliking that football fans naturally feel towards rival managers.
Conte has, however, begun a new era at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea fans seem more than happy with their end of the deal, as the Blues sit top of the table while Manchester United are stationed in 6th. His name rings around the ground at every home game and Chelsea fans will be hoping he can keep them on track and trump Mourinho’s success.
Manager’s aside, the clubs have dominated much of the success in English football in recent times, as well as being the last two English teams to be crowned Champions of Europe. While Manchester United and Liverpool will continue to battle over – and add to – their impressive history, United’s rivalry with Chelsea is perhaps the most significant in its representation of the English game.
Over the years titles have been won and lost in fixtures between these two; Manchester City’s recent rise has staggered the success of the two clubs somewhat, but you always feel at the start of a season that Chelsea and Manchester United are amongst the favourites and they rarely disappoint.
Mourinho and Conte are both enduring their first seasons with their new clubs, and there are all the suggestions present that both could be long-term reigns. The bad blood between Chelsea and Mourinho after last season’s sacking, and Conte’s rise to the top with virtually the same squad of players, has added a new dimension to the rivalry, and creates a feeling that there’s a lot more to be written in the story between the two clubs.