Manchester United vs Chelsea Not Yet A Proper Rivalry?

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Digsy thinks Man Utd vs Chelsea has some way to go.

No doubt Manchester United vs Chelsea is a big game. It’s this seasons realistic title contenders going head to head. But does this game count as a bona fide rivalry yet? Is it even as heated as Liverpool vs Chelsea? Arsenal vs Chelsea?

I say no. Here’s why:

1) Geography: Most intense rivalries are local derbies between clubs who exist in close proximity to each other. Newcastle United vs Sunderland, Liverpool vs Everton, Manchester United vs Manchester City. These are real rivalries. Rangers vs Celtic, Milan vs Inter, Arsenal vs Spurs. They hate each other. Fans of these teams live and work (or sometimes don’t work) right next to each other, so the games taken a bigger meaning than Premiership points, it’s about holding your head high at work the next day. But you have to do about 80 miles on the M1, then another 50 miles on the M6 to get from Chelsea to Manchester.

2) History: Some rivalries emerge over time despite a lack of geographical proximity. Barcelona vs Real Madrid might be the classic example. For political reasons no doubt, but also because they’ve long been La Liga’s two powerhouse teams. Manchester United vs Arsenal has become such a rivalry recently thanks to Fergie and Wenger’s teams long and entertaining battle for Premiershipdominance (plus the hotly contested World Food Fight Championship). Liverpool vs Chelsea is a developing rivalry, due to playing each other about a thousand times in the last three seasons and also the magnificent controversy of Luis Garcia’s Champions League goal/not goal, a debate we won’t be re-opening here. But Chelsea have only recently been realistic title challengers, they didn’t give United any trouble in the ‘90s. And The Blues recent rise to dominance coincided with a couple of poor seasons for Fergie’s men, meaning the two clubs have never properly scrapped it out for a title. This may change if they go all the way neck and neck this season, and for a few years hence. But right now they’re competitors, not rivals.

3) One Game Mentality: The acid test for a rivalry is if it exists outside of the competition for league points and silverware. Some fans want to win their local derby so badly, it’s the only game they care about. I’ve met West Brom fans who don’t care what happens the rest of the season so long as they beat Wolves. The points don’t matter. That’s an intense rivalry. While there’s no doubt United fans desperately want to beat Chelsea and vice versa, the main motivation is points. Would United fans settle for finishing 17th in the Premiership so long as they beat Chelsea? Course not. Would Chelsea fans take that deal. Absolutely not. Because the United vs Chelsea rivalry does not exist outside of the battle for Premiership points and shiny trophies. Yet.

The Future… Here’s why this fixture will become fierce in the next few years. United and Chelsea are the two richest teams in the Prem. They have many of the best players and the money to keep buying the best players. All respect to Arsenal and Liverpool fans, but the Premiership will likely be contested via Glazer and Abramovich’s wallets for the foreseeable future, hopefully leading to some titanic battles. And one more genuine rivalry on the Premiership fixture list.