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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 21:54 GMT 22:54 UK
Have Chelsea taken United's crown?
By Andrew McKenzie

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) and Jose Mourinho greet each other before the clash at Old Trafford
In the build-up to Chelsea's visit to Old Trafford, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson claimed there was "nothing between the two sides".

The league table had offered up a different story, but if any evidence was needed the Blues supplied it with a clinical 3-1 victory at the Theatre of Dreams.

The evidence over a season is even more clear-cut.

Forget Ferguson's talk of a thin dividing line and leagues decided by little incidents like penalty decisions.

With a game to go Chelsea are 20 points clear of their north-west rivals.

The league title is in the bag and Chelsea have begun erasing Manchester United from the record books.

Goals from Tiago, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Joe Cole ensured Chelsea passed United's record of 28 wins in a 38-game season.

The three points also took the Blues' total to 94 - bettering United's Premiership record of 92, which was set over 42 matches in 1993-94.

Other records could still fall as Jose Mourinho's swaggering side look to finish the season in style, but already the talk has turned to next season.

Chelsea will enjoy bettering United's records - particularly doing it in their own backyard - but it is their standing as England's top dogs they are now chasing.

Ferguson's long-held claim that United's tradition will ensure they will always have one step on their rivals could be facing its biggest test.

A quick comparison does not make pleasant reading for the Red Devils.

Start at the top; while United fight off the threat of Malcolm Glazer, Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich talks of his 10-year plan to turn them into the world's biggest club.

He can back that talk up with his billions, while United justify every penny to the stock market.

In the hot-seat United have the most decorated manager in the history of English football.

In my five years if I don't win the championship once or twice more I'd say we don't have a really great team
Jose Mourinho
Ferguson remains one of the game's great leaders and most respected figures, but at 63 the questions about how long he can continue at such a level get more pertinent as the silverware dries up.

Add the Premiership title to his European Cup and domestic trophies with Porto and you can see why Mourinho is the self-appointed "special one".

On the playing side, Chelsea were able to put out a side at Old Trafford without the likes of Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and skipper John Terry and still be able to see off United.

Chelsea boast two of the best goalkeepers in the Premiership; United have arguably two of the worst.

United's spending and pulling power was once uncontested in the Premiership.

Now it is Chelsea who seem to have the pick of the bunch.

While once the talk was of Patrick Vieira leaving Higbury for Old Trafford, now it is Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard heavily linked with Stamford Bridge.

Compare Ferdinand's current situation with Terry, his rival now for the tag of best defender in the Premiership, if not for England.

While Ferdinand's contract wrangle goes on, Terry talks about staying unbeaten next season and creating a dynasty at Stamford Bridge.

Only a fool would write off Ferguson and United, who have a habit of making their critics eat their words.

And Chelsea know they need to repeat their success next season if they are to earn the label of a great side.

Only a year ago it was Arsenal's invincibles who were tipped for dominance, but they fell foul of the recognised test of greatness - defending the title successfully and conquering Europe.

Manchester United players gave a guard of honour to Chelsea's champions as they entered the field before Tuesday's game.

Chelsea have had a taste of success and are now determined to make that a symbolic passing of the baton from United to Chelsea, as the Kings of England.



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