In 2004, the Roman Abramovich-owned club were reckoned to be the biggest payers in world football as Chelsea spent heavily to challenge United's dominance.
Ten years on, and Manchester City are now easily the biggest payers in the Premier League, and Chelsea's accounts lodged with Companies House show that they are now in third spot in the 'wages league' below United as well.
Chelsea's wage bill in 2012/13 was £176million compared to £182million for Manchester United in the same season, while Manchester City's was £233million.
Chelsea's salary bill for the season also includes £4million paid during the course of the year to former manager Roberto Di Matteo - the accounts say the sum is for "termination payments and compensation in relation to changes in the first-team management structure".
The increasingly-prudent approach to wages at Chelsea reflects the club's commitment to complying with UEFA's financial fair play rules, where clubs in European competition can only record losses of £37.5m during the first two-year accounting period.
Chelsea have also benefited from signing the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata before they were established superstars demanding huge salaries, which also has taken the pressure off the wage bill.
Wages at the Stamford Bridge club actually fell overall in 2011/12, and the rise last season was around three per cent compared to an 11.6% increase at United.
In terms of UEFA's spending rules, Chelsea Football Club Ltd's accounts state: "The introduction of UEFA's financial fair play regulations from the 2011/12 season provides a significant challenge.
"The football club needs to continue to balance success on the field together with the financial imperatives of this new regime."
The latest figure are in stark contrast to 10 years ago when
Deloitte's annual football finance review estimated Chelsea's wage bill of £115million in 2003/04 as "almost certainly the highest in world football".
In that year, Roman Abramovich's first full season of ownership of Chelsea, the club registered a 110 per cent increase in wages.
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