Manchester United and Chelsea are historical rivals; we all know that. We also know it’s a mild one compared to Man United’s rivalry with Liverpool or Chelsea’s rivalry with Arsenal. Though with a bitter and old conflict between mammoth managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, Manchester United and Chelsea face a more complicated battle for the FA Cup final come May 19.
During the 2004-2005 season, a massive bribing scandal struck the Italian league and damaged the reputations of teams like Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan and others. It was called Calciopoli, or Footballville, where Juventus general managers Luciano Moggi and Antonino Giraudo were exposed to have had recorded conversations with Italian referees. The bribery fixed matches in favor of a select number of teams, paving a way to a monopoly on one of the most prestigious football leagues in the world, the Serie A.
What does this have to do with Mourinho or Conte? Well, my dearies, when the Special One superbly managed Inter Milan in the 2008-2010 seasons and Conte managed Juventus, a recently disgraced team, animosity was slowly building up. Of course the conflict was ignited by Mourinho, who in reference to Juventus said: “With the silence of everyone in Italian football, you built Calciopoli.”
Infuriated and rightfully so, Conte fired back first by winning the title with Juventus and then adding insult to injury said: “I want to stay and build something for years, not see my team break up.” This was a direct reference to Mourinho’s move to Real Madrid.
Mourinho then transferred to manage Chelsea in the EPL and won the championship in his second season back in England. Conte, a few years later, won the league title in his first year in England to one-up his Italian league rival. The rivalry continued with a comment here and there but it blew up during a match between Chelsea and Manchester United in 2016. Chelsea had decimated the Red Devils, Conte celebrated at 4-0, the final score, and Mourinho, naturally enraged, went berserk on Conte.
Guess who the referee was during that match up? Yup, Gianluigi Buffon’s favorite punching bag, Michael Oliver.
Mourinho had told Conte not to celebrate like that at 4-0, it’s “humiliating” and added that if Conte wanted to celebrate that lively it should’ve been with the first goal or two. It must be so annoying having a man who’s infamous for his questionable behavior give you life advice, then again it was Mourinho visibly backing up a bit and not Conte. If the two were ever thrown in for a cage fight, my money’s on Mr. Juve.
Fast forward to 2017: Chelsea again defeated Mourinho’s Manchester United with two 1-0 victories in March and May. In the conclusion of one of the matches, Conte and Mourinho seemingly refused to shake hands and deal like proper grown-ups. More lewd comments and backbiting continued in press conferences and interviews. Insults like clown, knob head, little man and even Mourinho commenting on Conte’s hair transplants are all too familiar with the rivalry’s following.
Recently, the two managers were put into a different light in the news and it wasn’t a typical bout of insults. Mourinho had been accused of selling Mohamed Salah from Chelsea to Roma. Both Conte and Mourinho told the press no, that wasn’t the case as Chelsea management had decided to do that. Conte also told reporters recently the FA Cup final is a game against Manchester United and not one against Jose Mourinho.
The question for Manchester United is: Does it matter that you have eight more EPL titles and five more FA Cup titles than Chelsea? How are you going to square up with a team that has been more dominant in general, a team that has dominated you numerously over the last few years?
How will Manchester United survive if Chelsea pulls another barrage of goals like this?
In preparation for the final, Conte showed a newly found wisdom focused on making the matchup between “two great teams” and not between “two managers with strong characters, two winners” he said.
"I have great respect for United's story, for Mourinho's story; they have the same respect, I think, for Chelsea's story and my story," Conte said. “This is the most important thing. There is not a problem between him and I. I think this final is a game between two great teams: Manchester United and Chelsea.”
In reality though, Conte and Mourinho’s rivalry will probably end similarly to impressionist Al Foran’s funny prediction:
Mourinho and Conte rivalry over? pic.twitter.com/cCZxd4NEE3— Al Foran (@ImpressionistAL) February 25, 2018
We shall see, Mr. Juve, we shall see and so will Roman Abramovich. Maybe Conte can save his spot as Chelsea’s manager if he appeases the Russian club owner with a title win. As for Mourinho, I can only hope Manchester United shows up with a vengeance but if there’s a loss, please don’t go picking a fight.
If a fight does break out though, wouldn’t it be a clash for the ages if we get to witness an all-out brawl between Chelsea and Manchester United? This is in no way an incitement to violence; please contact my lawyers for any inquiries as to why I just wrote that.