Red and blue all over
A string of top players past and present have pulled on the shirts of both Chelsea and Manchester United over the years – but both clubs didn't always enjoy the same levels of success with those stars.
In this slideshow, we look back at the men who've doubled up at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford... and how they fared with each. Who really did it better?
15. Mal Donaghy
Although he may not be the first name you think of, Mal Donaghy is one of several players who represented both Chelsea and Man United – but which club got the better deal?
A Luton legend who played 488 games for the club, Donaghy also represented United and Chelsea towards the end of an 18-year playing career - and just before the two clubs rose to trophy-winning prominence. Moving to Manchester in 1988, the Northern Irishman was a fringe player during much of his time at Old Trafford, but he did play a part in the Cup Winners’ Cup success of 1991.
A year after that victory, Donaghy – by now 35 – joined Chelsea, helping the Blues to an 11th-place finish and the FA Cup final... which was lost to United thanks to goals from Eric Cantona (two), Brian McClair and Mark Hughes... about whom, more later.
Rating per club: Chelsea 6/10, Man United 6/10
14. Mark Bosnich
The Australian goalkeeper joined United at the age of 17 in 1989, making his first-team debut against Wimbledon a year later. Bosnich was let go after just one more match for the Red Devils, but was re-signed in 1999 following Peter Schmeichel’s departure – Sir Alex Ferguson preferring Bosnich to other available goalkeepers including Edwin van der Sar.
His second spell at Old Trafford didn’t go well, however, Alex Ferguson labelling the glovesman a “terrible professional” and selling him to Chelsea in 2001. Things went from bad to worse for Bosnich in London: after just seven outings in all competitions, he failed a drugs test and was banned from the game for nine months.
Rating per club: Chelsea 1/10, Man United 2/10
13. Radamel Falcao
Falcao scored for fun in Colombia, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and France, but suffered two joyless loan spells in the Premier League.
The first of those temporary transfers came when Louis van Gaal brought the Colombia international to United, where the striker looked a shadow of his former self and scored just four goals in 2014/15. Strangely, Chelsea weren’t put off by such inefficiency and agreed a season-long deal, with Falcao netting just once in 12 games for the west Londoners.
Rating per club: Chelsea 1/10, Man United 2/10
12. Graham Moore
Welshman Moore began his professional career at Cardiff in the late 1950s, before crossing the border and signing for Chelsea in 1961.
The midfielder helped the Blues win promotion to the First Division in his second and final season at the club, with United then paying £35,000 to take him to Manchester in 1963. Game time proved hard to come by at Old Trafford, although Moore did score five goals in 19 appearances in his only season at the club. He later played for Northampton, Charlton and Doncaster.
Rating per club: Chelsea 5/10, Man United 3/10
11. George Graham
Although most associated with Arsenal, where he won the Double as a player and two titles as a manager, 'Stroller' Graham also spent a couple of years lacing up his boots at both Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. Having started his career at Aston Villa, he joined Tommy Docherty's impressive young Chelsea side in 1964. They won the 1965 League Cup and challenged for the title but Graham was among several players to incense Tommy Doc by breaking a curfew, leading to his exit despite having scored 46 goals in 102 games.
After six seasons at Highbury, Graham found himself crowded out by new marquee signing Alan Ball, so in December 1972 he was taken to Old Trafford by the new United manager – a certain Tommy Docherty, who had obviously forgiven him. However, the Red Devils were on the slide and he left after their 1974 relegation.
Rating per club: Chelsea 6/10, Man United 4/10
10. Stan Crowther
Having been in the Aston Villa team which beat United in the 1957 FA Cup final, Crowther switched sides the following February after the Munich air disaster. The wing-half appeared in a second consecutive FA Cup final but was on the losing side this time, as Matt Busby’s men went down 2-0 to Bolton.
As Busby rebuilt United that summer, Crowther joined Chelsea, spending two seasons at the club – after making his Blues debut against, you guessed it, United. He played 58 games for the Blues in total, before moving on to Brighton in 1961.
Rating per club: Chelsea 5/10, Man United 4/10
9. Juan Sebastian Veron
Signing from Serie A champions Lazio in 2001 for what was then a British record of £28.1m, Veron failed to impress at Old Trafford. Signed to help United switch away from the 4-4-2 hegemony, he started well (four goals in his first eight games, September's Premier League Player of the Month) but became a scapegoat for a side in transition: after a trio of top-flight titles, they would finish third in 2002. Sir Alex Ferguson was quick to back his man, famously telling a room full of cynical journalists “he’s a f***ing great player… and yous are all f***ing idiots”.
For all Fergie's fury, after 82 United appearances the Argentinian was sold to Chelsea in 2003. Injury problems limited him to just 14 games for the Blues, and he moved back to Italy with Inter 12 months later before a late flurry of trophies back at home with boyhood club Estudiantes.
Rating per club: Chelsea 3/10, Man United 4/10
8. Mickey Thomas
After playing 283 lower-league matches for Wrexham, Thomas was taken to the top flight by United in 1978. The winger was unable to claim any silverware during three years at Old Trafford, finishing as an FA Cup runner-up in his debut season, but he was a first-team regular and made over 100 appearances in all competitions.
After spells with Everton, Brighton and Stoke, the Welshman joined Chelsea – then managed by his former Wrexham boss John Neal – in 1984. The Blues won promotion to the top tier in his first campaign, with Thomas going on to score five goals in 27 First Division encounters in 1985/86.
Rating per club: Chelsea 6/10, Man United 5/10
7. Romelu Lukaku
Signed from Anderlecht for an initial £10m in 2011, Lukaku was never really given a fair crack of the whip at Chelsea; the burly Belgian frontman made just 10 Premier League appearances for the Blues before being sold to Everton for £28m.
Chelsea supposedly came close to re-signing Lukaku in summer 2017, but the striker ultimately ended up joining United instead for somewhere north of £75m. He hit the ground running at Old Trafford, too, scoring 11 goals in his first 15 appearances for Jose Mourinho’s men – but his hot streak didn't really last. In summer 2019, after two campaigns at United, Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan.
Rating per club: Chelsea 2/10, Man United 6/10
6. Paul Parker
Having made his name with Fulham and QPR as a centre-back despite only being 5ft 7in in his socks, Parker switched in 1991 to become Manchester United's right-back. A title-winner in 1993 and a Double-winner in 1994, he would have played more than 146 times but for injury and the mergence of Gary Neville.
From 1996 Parker bounced around with brief spells at Derby, Sheffield United and Fulham, before agreeing a deal with injury-hit Chelsea in 1997. The 19-time England international made just four appearances for the Blues and was left out of the matchday squad for the FA Cup final triumph over Middlesbrough.
Rating per club: Chelsea 2/10, Man United 7/10
5. Alex Stepney
Born just a few miles away from Stamford Bridge, Stepney is nevertheless a United rather than Chelsea legend. Unable to dislodge Peter Bonetti, the goalkeeper played just one league game for the Blues in 1966 before being sold to the Red Devils for £55,000.
Replacing Harry Gregg between the sticks, Stepney immediately impressed at Old Trafford as United won the title in his first season. The European Cup was added the following year, and by the end of his United career Stepney had made 539 appearances – a tally bettered only by Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, Bill Foulkes, Paul Scholes, Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs.
Rating per club: Chelsea 2/10, Man United 8/10
4. Nemanja Matic
Initially signed by Chelsea as a 21-year-old in 2009, Matic made only two Premier League appearances before being shipped off to Benfica two years later in part-exchange for David Luiz. But in 2014 the Blues paid £21m to bring him back, and the midfielder starred in title triumphs under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
Matic was reunited with Mourinho at Old Trafford in summer 2017, at an initial cost of £35m. Living up to his achievements was always going to be tough for the Serb, however – and needless to say, Father Time hasn't exactly been kind on him. Matic is yet to win a trophy with United.
Rating per club: Chelsea 9/10, Man United 5/10
3. Ray Wilkins
Here's a pub-quiz question: did Wilkins play more times for Chelsea or United? It was a close thing: 198 for the Blues, 194 for the Red Devils. The midfielder won the FA Cup with United but scored substantially more goals for Chelsea, finding the net 34 times compared to just 10 with the Red Devils.
He had made his breakthrough for the Stamford Bridge outfit, selected at 17 and manager at 18, and still regards the Blues as his club: “I say 'we' because I am a Chelsea supporter.”
Rating per club: Chelsea 8/10, Man United 7/10
2. Juan Mata
Signed from Valencia in August 2011, Mata didn’t take long to make an impression at Stamford Bridge. Installed as his team’s playmaker, the Spaniard finished his debut Premier League campaign with 14 assists and helped Chelsea to the FA Cup and an unlikely Champions League triumph, before adding a Euro 2012 winners' medal to his 2010 World Cup gold.
The following year Chelsea won the Europa League and Mata was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, but he was sold to United in January 2014 after falling out of favour under Jose Mourinho. Having scored a crucial leveller en route to winning the 2016 FA Cup final, Mata remains a member of the United squad who helped them win the 2017 Europa League.
Rating per club: Chelsea 8/10, Man United 6/10
1. Mark Hughes
Hughes has played for or managed 11 clubs but is undoubtedly primarily associated with Manchester United. Joining them in his teens, he scored 47 in 121 games and a 1985 FA Cup winners' medal before a shock 1986 move to Terry Venables' Barcelona. Returning (via Bayern Munich) to Old Trafford two years later for a club record £1.8m, he boosted his numbers to 163 goals in 473 United appearances.
He also added two Premier League titles, two more FA Cups, a League Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup, but in 1995 he was controversially sold again as Alex Ferguson culled the older players in order to promote some unheard-of youth products with names like Beckham and Scholes. Moving to Chelsea for three seasons, he added another FA Cup and 39 goals in 123 matches.
Rating per club: Chelsea 7/10, Man United 9/10
Overall club ratings: Chelsea 70, Man United 80
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