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5 instances when top clubs gave arch rivals a Guard of Honour

vatsal dani
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There has been a tradition in European football where the newly crowned champions are given a guard of honour with their excellence throughout the season acknowledged by the other teams. There are talks over Liverpool giving the Blues a guard of honour this Sunday when the two sides square up at the Stamford Bridge.

This is not a first instance when a top rival has given a guard of honor to the newly crowned champions. Top clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona too have done so in the recent past. Here are five instances where a top club has given a guard of honor to their arch rival.

5) Rangers FC to Hearts FC – 2014/15

Rangers FC – a name that has been maligned far enough due to off the pitch issues. From being a powerhouse of Scottish football to being reduced to a side fighting promotion in the second division, a lot of water has flown under the bridge at the Ibrox.

The Old Firm side had possibly the worst moment in its history when they gave Hearts FC a guard of honour last month. Hearts have won the Scottish Championship comprehensively and are leading second-placed Hibernian by 23 points. Rangers are in third place three points adrift of Hibernian. They will play Queen of South in the Premiership qualification playoffs this weekend.

Hearts have been the best side in the Championship by a country mile as they have dropped only 12 points the entire season. Rangers, on the other hand, have been inconsistent but the Ibrox boys have made steady progress under the new found leadership of Stuart McCall.

The former Motherwell manager has transformed this disjointed Rangers side as they had a strong finish to the season. They not only mauled the new champions Hearts this past week which marks their resurgence under McCall.

4) Manchester United to Chelsea – 2004/05

Manchester United Chelsea guard of honour

Jose Mourinho announced his arrival to English shores with an arrogant swagger which baffled many observers of the game. He won two league titles in as many seasons in England which severely challenged the duopoly of Manchester United and Arsenal in the early part of the millennium.

Chelsea took the league status quo by the scruff of its neck as they ran riot throughout the season. Manchester United had their lowest ever finish in the Premier League era (at the time) when they finished third behind Arsenal.

United had to give the acrimonious guard of honor to the newly crowned champions Chelsea at Old Trafford. The Blues continued their imperial run of form as they humbled the Red Devils 3-1, thus rubbing more salt into their wounds. But this humiliation wasn’t going to deter the wily Scottish manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who accepted the challenge as he thundered these words in his autobiography,

“When, on May 10, 2005, we assembled a guard of honour for Chelsea, the new champions, at our ground, I had no intention of surrendering to Abramovich’s wealth in the months to come,” said Ferguson.

He cited that it was a big moment for Chelsea, but United had to mend their ways of being notoriously slow starters if they were to challenge Chelsea for the Premiership.

“Psychologically that was a big moment for Chelsea. They had won the League for the first time in half a century and could see themselves in another light. A lesson we took on board was that slow starts could no longer be tolerated if we were to face Chelsea, our big new challengers.”

The determination and will to succeed in Sir Alex’s words could not be ignored as it marked the beginning of a new rivalry between Chelsea and Manchester United.

3) Chelsea to Manchester United – 2006/07

After being mauled by Chelsea for two successive seasons, the perennial champions Manchester United roared back in style. They laid the gauntlet for others to follow and their determination to end Chelsea’s stranglehold on the league formed the crux of the Reds’ revival.

The rise of two young superstars at Old Trafford was one of the major reasons for the successful title charge as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo announced them to the world as the next big thing in the world football. United had wrapped up the title with two games to spare after Chelsea’s inability to get a positive result at the Emirates. They travelled to Chelsea as the newly crowned champions, winning their ninth title in 15 years of the Premier League era.

Chelsea were made to repay the favour which they got from their northern rivals a couple of seasons ago at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson stayed true to his words as he dared the Russian oligarch with yet another title victory. Sir Alex didn’t shy away from returning the humiliation he faced with suitable interest as he fielded an untested side which featured the likes of Fangzhou Dong, Chris Eagles and Kieran Lee. One didn’t need rocket-science to understand what Sir Alex wanted to convey.

Such was the audacity of his team selection that one pundit in the box couldn’t hold back his tongue in the commentators box as he chided Manchester United’s team selection.

“John Terry's been made to look an idiot,” he said. The same pundit even blasted Sir Alex by saying that he was making a mockery of Chelsea’s guard of honour.

The match ended in a drab 0-0 draw yet the damage had already been done by then.

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vatsal dani
Football buff and a sports aficionado. A budding journalist and a Manchester United fan. Sports like Football, Cricket, Lawn Tennis, F1 and WWE are few among the hoardes of them which I like. Always with a pen and a notepad!
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