In the first instalment of a new feature focusing on the story behind a classic match between Chelsea and our next opponents, club historian Rick Glanvill recalls a noteworthy victory in a landmark fixture that set the tone for what was to come…
The day before the opening encounter of the 2004/05 Premier League season, the 15 August visit of Manchester United, new coach Jose Mourinho called a special team meeting.
His players were already well-rehearsed in the tactical deployments and individual responsibilities he expected from them in this heavyweight early clash of title favourites. Now he gathered them together for a different purpose.
‘You will read in the press and hear in the media me saying that I don’t expect us to win the league in my first season,’ he began. ‘I want you to be very clear that I have said this only to keep the pressure off all of us.
‘I also want you to know that I do expect us to win the Premiership this season. I know that we will. We are winners and winning is all that matters. I don’t want to be second or third. We want to win this league and we will.’
Most players present recall that as the moment a long-lasting winning mentality was instilled in the Chelsea dressing room.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, with Roy Keane a makeshift centre-half, were beaten 1-0 thanks to an Eidur Gudjohnsen goal. And although Chelsea’s diamond midfield failed to sparkle the group were off to a big start, and on course for the glory the Portuguese predicted.
He told them they were champions, and champions they would become the following spring.