The Chelsea-Manchester United fixture has more often than not decided the Premier League title since Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the Blues that broke up the Arsenal-Manchester United duopoly that dominated the Premier League for many years prior.
But beginning in 2009, this fixture has become infamous for controversial calls:
1. November 2009
Referee Martin Atkinson had a shocker. In the first half, Wayne Rooney was incorrectly flagged for offside when he was in on the keeper. Minutes later a clear penalty was denied for United. In the second half, with United controlling the game, a succession of questionable calls led to Chelsea’s lone goal in the 1-0 Blues victory. Chelsea would win the title that season by a single point over Manchester United.
2. April 2010
Having been the victims of injustice earlier in the season, Manchester United felt aggrieved again as Chelsea’s second goal was described by The Guardian as “outrageously offside.” Goal scorer Didier Drogba was at least three yards offside when Solomon Kalou played the ball to him. But minutes later, United cut the lead to 2-1 on a goal that was just as dubious. Federico Macheda hit a “shot” with his right arm that reached the left-hand side of the net. The goal stood but Chelsea held on for a 2-1 victory and won the title by one point.
Mike Dean was the official and several weeks earlier he had gifted Manchester City a match at Stamford Bridge with a dodgy penalty call when Gareth Barry went to ground without much contact. That result was what brought Manchester United back to within a point of Chelsea, setting up this matchup.
3. March 2011
Carrying a caution with Manchester United leading 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, David Luiz made a challenge that may have even been red card worthy on Wayne Rooney but escaped with just a foul. Luiz then equalized the game and Chelsea won late on a controversial penalty. The penalty call was made after Blues substitute Yuri Zhirkov ran into a stationary Chris Smalling, yet the foul was called on the United man in the area.
After this game, Sir Alex Ferguson made comments about referee Martin Atkinson including references to the 2009 matchup. The comments led directly to a lengthy touchline ban by The FA, leaving Ferguson in the stands for five games including a loss at Newcastle and an FA Cup semifinal defeat to rivals Manchester City.