BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
The team to join the trio of Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi finals will be decided tonight at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea host their bitter rivals, Manchester United.
This is easily the final before the final and the potentially the most explosive and competitive of the four quarter finals duels.
Goals are not expected to flow as in the Saturday Arsenal versus Lincoln City clash or the Sunday one sided affair that saw Tottenham scoring six goals in the encounter with Millwall.
It is also grudge-laden. Jose Mourinho, Manchester United manager, again come face to face with his former club and fans that hitherto would have been looking at him as their hero.
Both Chelsea and Manchester United still remain giants of English football and rivals in the FA Cup with history almost dating back to 100 years.
Most results of 11 past clashes in the FA Cup have gone in favour of Manchester United with eight wins. But the last two clashes were won by Chelsea whose form is buoyed with going into Monday’s clash as table-topper of the Premier League.
But the number of past wins of Manchester United and the current form of Chelsea in Premier League may have little bearing on the clash.
The FA Cup history is replete with shock results that never aligned with projections. But a look at some past FA Cup clashes of both teams can be of interest. Here are some of them as captured by the FA.
King Cantona reigns at Wembley – 1994
Of the previous meetings between the two teams, two have occurred in the final, the first in 1994.
Manchester United arrived at Wembley as favourites, having been crowned Premier League champions ahead of the showpiece.
And, following a goalless first half Chelsea were blown away after the interval, as a second-period blitz secured a 4-0 triumph.
The Red Devils’ pressure saw Eric Cantona score two penalties in quick succession, while Mark Hughes effectively wrapped up the trophy before Brian McClair added a fourth late on.
Bend it like Beckham -1998
Four years later the two were at it again, this time in a mouth-watering third round clash at Stamford Bridge.
Unlike the 1994 showpiece, United had no problem finding the back of the net in the first half with David Beckham scoring twice – one a trademark free-kick – and Andy Cole giving the visitors a healthy lead.
After the restart Cole grabbed a second before Teddy Sheringham headed home a fifth. A fine Graeme Le Saux chip did spark Chelsea into life but a double from Gianluca Vialli was all they could muster and Manchester United won 5-3, although they would go on and lose a fifth round replay to Barnsley.
All -Dwight on the night – 1995
The following season Chelsea and Manchester United were paired again at the quarter-final stage.
Following a goalless draw at Old Trafford, Dwight Yorke opened the scoring in the early stages of the replay at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea then enjoyed large spells of possession and should have equalised through Dennis Wise, but his shot was blocked inadvertently by team-mate Tore Andre Flo.
And that proved to be crucial as Yorke added a second and Manchester United went on to secure an historic treble.
Drogba made the difference – 2007
The tide finally turned for Chelsea in 2007 and they did it on the biggest stage of all – the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
It was the first showpiece played at the revamped national stadium and both sides toiled to a goalless draw in the opening 90 minutes.
That meant extra-time and the prospect of penalties, but Chelsea striker Didier Drogba had other ideas as he raced onto Frank Lampard’s pass and chipped home a 116th-minute winner.
This was Jose Mourinho’s first FA Cup triumph as Chelsea manager, but he will be looking to ensure Manchester United progress on Monday.
Ramires’ revenge sets up Ba beauty – 2013
The 2013 quarter-finals saw Chelsea travel to Old Trafford in what would turn out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season in charge of Manchester United.
It looked as though his troops would give him the perfect send-off as Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney scored in the opening ten minutes.
But Chelsea refused to lie down and after half-time struck twice themselves through Eden Hazard and Ramires to level the tie.
They could have won it too but United goalkeeper David De Gea pulled off a wonder save to deny Juan Mata a winner.
But Chelsea fans didn’t need to worry as Demba Ba went on to score the winner in the replay.