Jose Mourinho suffered abject humiliation on his return to Stamford
Bridge asChelsea obliterated his Manchester United side – seizing the
lead after 30 seconds and never easing off.
Goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard handed Mourinho the
heaviest Premier League defeat of his career as he faced the club where
he won three titles for the first time in a competitive domestic match.
With Chelsea operating at an entirely different pace to their
sluggish visitors and United’s defence suffering a series of collective
brain freezes, Mourinho’s
men now find themselves five points adrift of the Champions League
places having taken just five points from their last six league games.
Pedro pounced on a disastrous mix-up between Chris Smalling and David
De Gea to round the keeper and open the scoring in the first minute,
then Cahill netted after United failed to clear a Hazard corner.
And midway through the second half, United were caught with a
devastating one-two when Hazard cut inside Smalling and drilled home the
third before Kante was virtually waved through to score the fourth – as
Chelsea sauntered to within a point of leaders Manchester City.
1. Conte’s switch pays off
Antonio Conte has switched things around tactically in a way Jose Mourinho used to do.
It’s the ability to identify a problem and fix it in a decisive way which marks out a top manager.
Mourinho, at his best, had that knack. Over the past couple of years it has been less apparent.
Yet after Chelsea’s 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal last month, Conte
re-shaped his side into a 3-4-3 and has seen them win three on the
bounce since, scoring nine goals and conceding none.
It’s a system which seems to suit every member of this Chelsea
starting line-up – including wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso,
two men rejected by Mourinho at Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively.
2. Pedro shines against former boss
Mourinho’s hijacking of Pedro back-fired.
Manchester United looked certain to sign Pedro from Barcelona in the
summer of last year but when Ed Woodward was caught napping, Mourinho
swooped to sign him for Chelsea.
While Pedro has often been on the periphery over the past 15 months,
his quick thinking put Mourinho’s gameplan through the shredder as he
opened the scoring after just 30 seconds.
It meant that the Special One was unable to park the bus, even at a place where used to have his own personal parking space.
3. Ibrahimovic needs to be more lethal
The Swede has failed to score in five Premier League matches and has managed just one in eight in all competitions.
For the third match running, Ibrahimovic missed a clear, crucial
opportunity, this time when he headed over an Antonio Valencia cross
from just four yards out with the score at 1-0.
Despite his physical presence, Zlatan has never been a great scorer
of headers – and he’s missed two glorious chances with his nut in the
space of six days. At Paris St Germain, he would receive shed-loads of
chances, at United he’ll need to be more clinical.
4. The ‘rats’ are all right
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were two of the players branded as ‘rats’
by Chelsea fans in the immediate aftermath of Mourinho’s sacking last
Yet both have rediscovered their peak form under Conte.
Hazard, who has admitted he enjoys playing in this narrow front
three, netted his fourth league goal of the season – as opposed to a big
fat zero at the same stage last term.
Costa didn’t score yesterday but was full of menace and has seven to his name this season.
5. Fellaini disrupts fluency
United are not fluent enough with Marouane Fellaini in the team.
While the Belgium has obvious qualities for a side intent on keeping
things tight and snatching a goal from a set-piece, he slows things down
for a side wishing to attack with any sort of tempo.
It appeared when David Moyes signed him that while not a bad player,
Fellaini simply isn’t a United player – and little has changed since.
Mourinho may have to lose his obsession with height and ditch him.