Chelsea beat Manchester United 5-0 in a Premier League encounter on this day in 1999, putting on a show of dominance against the Red Devils.
Chelsea and Manchester United are two teams who, over the years, have become quite familiar with one another. The London-based side became the main title antogonists against the Red Devils in the mid-2000s. The Blues, transformed by the takeover of Roman Abramovich, became a force to be reckoned with and often beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s mighty side. That being said, it wasn’t always like this. In the 1990s, Chelsea were a somewhat different side. They won the occasional domestic trophy but largely competed for Top 4 league finishes. Which makes this match that we are about to discuss all the more surprising.
The Blues gave out an absolute hiding to the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge. Beating United was one thing: hammering them 5-0 was quite another. Yet the latter is what happened on this day in 1999.
With 22 years having passed to the day, we look back at what was a highly unusual result at the time.
United were flying high in 1999 and came into the Chelsea game on top of the world. After all, it’s worth remembering that this is the side that had won the treble at the end of the last year.
What’s more, they also had an unbeaten streak going in the Premier League. Heading into the match at Stamford Bridge, they had not tasted defeat in 29 league games.
Chelsea, for their part, were seen as a side on the up. Under the ownership of Ken Bates, they looked to add top-quality players and push on in the league.
The previous season had seen them finish third, and thus qualify for the Champions League for the first time. They had also won the European Super Cup that year.
Thus, it was always going to be an extremely competitive match. It’s just that not even the most optimistic of Chelsea fans would have predicted what would happen.
The opening blow for United was dealt in under 30 seconds. Straight after kick-off, Dan Petrescu sent a lobbed ball into the area.
It appeared, for all intents and purposes, a regulation ball to deal with. But United goalkeeper Massimo Taibi made an absolute howler, clattering into Dennis Irwin as he went to collect.
This left an open net for any Chelsea player to slot into, and it was Gustavo Poyet who headed home. Understandably, the Stamford Bridge crowd went delirious.
The second would not take too long to arrive. Another cross, this time from Albert Ferrer, saw Chris Sutton rise up and direct a well-hit looping header into the far corner.
However, the turning point of the match came from a clash between Dennis Wise and Nicky Butt. Chelsea skipper Wise was always a feisty character and he clattered into the back of Butt in a 50-50 situation.
It was a poor challenge, but in those days worthy only of a yellow card. However, Butt had a brainfade for the ages when he decided to lash out at Wise after the challenge – right under referee Dermot Gallagher’s nose.
Butt was duly sent off and this sparked a melee of sorts among the players. However, United now had the challenge of overturning a two-goal deficit with 10 men on the field.
The goal that killed the game arrived in the 55th minute, when Poyet scored from a rebound after Taibi saved Frank Leboeuf’s shot.
And insult to injury was added when Henning Borg attempted to intercept a Gianfranco Zola cross but only prodded the ball into his own net.
The final goal came 10 minutes before time, with Graeme Le Saux playing in Jody Morris. Morris coolly placed a shot past Taibi to cap a five-star display.
Chelsea and Manchester United would go on to have fairly contrasting seasons from this point onwards. The Blues, under the management of Gianluca Vialli, would finish fifth in the league.
However, they would end up winning the FA Cup at the end of the season, adding another bit of silverware to their trophy cabinet.
United would recover from this loss and beat out bitter rivals Leeds United to the Premier League title. They would also claim the Intercontinental Cup.
However, they did not defend their FA Cup title to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup – and also lost their Champions league crown, being eliminated by Real Madrid in the quarterfinals.