Drinkwater: Rivalry and revisiting

Danny Drinkwater returns to his boyhood club this weekend for the first time as a Chelsea player.

The 27-year-old grew up as a Manchester United junior having been born in the city and a United supporter. He was four years old when the two clubs contested the 1994 FA Cup final and since then, the competitiveness between us has grown as we have both won plenty of trophies. Drinkwater always thought of Chelsea as major rivals.  

‘Chelsea was obviously a big team as well,’ he says as he casts his mind back. ‘They were similar big teams – Chelsea, United, Liverpool, City, Arsenal - so Chelsea was like a London rival at the time, yeah a big club.

‘The Chelsea players I remember most from growing up would have been Frank Lampard, John Terry, Dennis Wise going back even further and Gianfranco Zola. I remember watching him and it was a joke! I think everybody loves Zola.

‘Damien Duff I liked, players like that. I remember watching Marcel Desailly as well, he used to be class. There were quite a few.

‘I did watch the midfielders but saying that, I played up front as a kid. You tend to watch other players in your positions, and try to learn off them along the way.’

It is not so much the case these days but development football at the elite level was more regionalised when Drinkwater’s generation was coming through. It would mostly need an FA Youth Cup draw to pit clubs from south together with the north for a competitive fixture. It meant no really rivalry between Man United and Chelsea at youth level back then.

‘We played friendlies though,’ Drinkwater points out. ‘I remember Liam Bridcutt was the captain at Chelsea at the time. I remember coming down here as a young player and seeing a new club as big as Chelsea, it was good experience as kid, definitely.’

Although he left Man United for Leicester back in 2012, Drinkwater does look down the fixture list to see when he up against his first club again, and he has had some memorable encounters already, including the first time he faced them in 2014.

‘That was at the King Power when we beat them 5-3 (pictured below), that was crazy that game, and we drew 1-1 at Old Trafford just before we won the league. I got sent off with about three minutes to go and I think I kicked every cupboard in the changing room watching the last couple of minutes of that game!’

Drinkwater was also a second-half substitute in our impressive home win over Manchester United back in November. If he is called upon again tomorrow he is in good condition to play his part.

‘I am feeling good,’ he reports. ‘I am working on my strength and I am getting settled in. The lads have been top so it has been quite easy getting used to everything.’