A Halloween visit to Chelsea for a Fourth Round Capital One Cup tie should hold no fears for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United after exorcising the ghosts of Stamford Bridge with an incident-filled 3-2 Premier League win on Sunday.
Two sendings-off, a controversial winning goal and even more controversy, widely reported, surrounding referee Mark Clattenburg came out of a rumbustious encounter that saw United move to within one point of Chelsea at the top of the table thanks to what was their first win at Chelsea for over 10 years.
The two teams now reconvene for a Capital One Cup tie that will be played in front of a Halloween-themed crowd following Chelsea’s decision to offer children discounted tickets and encourage the wearing of seasonal masks.
On the pitch, however, there will be no masking the determination of both teams to win a match that will put the winners in familiar territory – the Red Devils have reached at least the last eight in each of the previous five seasons while Blues have achieved the same feat in eight of the last 11 years.
On the most recent of the four occasions the clubs have met in the competition, Chelsea came out on top, winning the 2005 Semi-Final and going on to lift the trophy with a 3-2 victory after extra time against current holders Liverpool in the Final.
Revenge for that Semi-Final defeat would maintain United’s recent fine record and manager Ferguson said: “You don’t want to lose down there and we want to continue in the Cup. These are big games and big games are good for us.”
Ferguson has had some big rivalries with Chelsea managers, notably Jose Mourinho who is now in charge of Real Madrid, and that scenario is continuing with Roberto Di Matteo who last term led Blues to their first Champions League trium.
“There has been good progress there since Roberto Di Matteo took the job,” added the United boss, “but any game down there is going to be tough.” Chelsea will make it as tough as possible in a game that Di Matteo wants desperately to win after seeing his side’s unbeaten start to the season ended with two successive defeats.
And then there is the added incentive of moving closer to the Capital One Cup’s Wembley final. Di Matteo said: “Any trophy you add to your cabinet is a plus, and this is one that you have to try your best to go and get. So I hope the supporters will get behind the team and push us on to a win.”