Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea to pay tribute to Matthew Harding before Manchester United game

Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge on Sunday is expected to have secondary status as Chelsea pay tribute to one of their own.

Matthew Harding, the former Chelsea director and the man credited with modernising the Blues, died 20 years ago on Saturday in a helicopter crash on his return from a match at Bolton.

Chelsea plan to pay their respects to Harding, who has a stand named after him at Stamford Bridge, ahead of the Premier League clash with Manchester United. A large banner will be unfurled in his memory.

Mourinho, who left Chelsea for a second time last December, will be in opposition and Blues fans have moved on in the 10 months since the self-proclaimed Special One's departure.

Chelsea fan Tim Rolls told Press Association Sport: "The Harding anniversary and the fact that the club are marking it will, rightly, I think, achieve prominence and precedence over the return of Mourinho.

"Before the game I think that will probably outweigh anything.

"I don't expect anything seismic either way in terms of Mourinho. Polite applause, maybe some chanting.

"And I think once the game has started people will focus on the game. It'll be about Chelsea against Manchester United."

It is not the first time Mourinho has been an opposition boss at Stamford Bridge. He brought Inter Milan to west London en route to their 2010 Champions League triumph.

And Chelsea, now led by head coach Antonio Conte, have moved on from their woeful campaign last term, which resulted in Mourinho's second spell coming to a premature end.

Former Chelsea Supporters' Trust chairman Rolls added: "Once he left Chelsea he was entitled to go wherever he wants.

"It was inevitable he would come back in the Premier League with another club. It was going to happen at some point.

"I was sorry to see Mourinho go, but it clearly wasn't working.

"After the home defeat against Bournemouth, most people knew the game was probably up. It couldn't go on as it was.

"That was 10 months ago and since then we've moved on, Chelsea have moved on, Mourinho has moved on."


From Belfast Telegraph