Story by: Okanga Okanga
Chelsea annihilated Man United by 4 unreturned goals in former manager, Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge. Pedro, Cahill, Hazard and Kante had the goals for the Blues while Paul Pogba somehow forgot to dye his hair for the big occasion.
The headline was all about Jose Mourinho and his return to Stamford Bridge with another English side – Man United – after his sacking by the Blues last season. Many observers were keen to see what kind of reception the Stamford Bridge crowd would offer their erstwhile darling manager. Mourinho himself had tried to play down the focus by arguing that game was nothing but a game of football between two great teams.
Counting back the clock to when Mourinho came to the Bridge in 2010 with Inter Milan, the Blues faithful showered a sea of love on him and sang his name to the high heavens. This time around he was greeted with a rendition of the Club’s official anthem
“Blue is the colour, football is the game;
We’re all together, and winning is our aim;
So cheer us on through the sun and rain’; Cause Chelsea, Chelsea is our name”.
The Chelsea players swiftly bought into the inspiration, with their best performance of the season so far – eventually turning the Special One’s welcome party into a morbid procession.
Antonio Conte had made the point before this game that he would never play for a draw, perhaps taking a veiled dig at Mourinho. He started with the same personnel and attacking intent as he did against Leicester last weekend. United, on the other hand set up the same way they did against Liverpool, presumably with the common intention to obstruct and disrupt Chelsea’s flow. Juan Mata, who had impressed midweek against Fenerbache in the Europa was dropped in favour of the much more physical but technically clumsy Marouane Fellaini. In terms of attack, United sought to get as many crosses as possible through Antonio Valencia into the Chelsea box with Ibra, Pogba and Fellaini the designated targets. United’s scuttle script was blown away like a candle in the wind with Chelsea’s first goal, scored by Pedro inside 30 seconds. United were shell-shocked and never recovered.
“Get that second goal and kill the game off”, they say. Chelsea did just that in the 21st minute with Gary Cahill stabbing a dagger of a shot into the United net from a loose corner kick. That was the plunge that finished off United. From then on it was just about Chelsea sweetening the pizza with some extra sugar.
N’Golo Kante just about misses out as our man of the match in this game in a very difficult choice. One moment that cannot be forgotten though was his finish to cap up the game at 4-nil. The way he mesmerized and befuddled United captain, Chris Smalling, to open the space for himself and fire past De Gea was quite exquisite. Perhaps only a decorated political can pull such a wool. The Frenchman who is better known for his marking than his trickery in this game had way too much for United to live with. Some regard his compatriot, Paul Pogba as the best midfielder in the world. Still some admirers of N’Golo Kante would have more reason to argue that he is an even more valuable French midfielder.
David Luiz’s high studs challenge on Marouane Fellaini in the 41st minute was far from smart. It could easily have got him sent off and his team under pressure. He was lucky to get away with only a yellow in a moment that would have tainted an hitherto sterling performance both from him and his team and could very much helped United back into the game.
Most Missed player
After a game like this there’ll be all sorts of excuses as to who should have played and who shouldn’t have. Let’s rule out Chelsea from this one; the Blues weren’t missing any man. All their players were imperious on the day, and not even the recently excused Willian was missed. United fans and the excuse-pundits may posit that Carrick and Mata should have started this one given their far greater on-the-ball composure. They may be right, but the manager makes the choices and Mourinho picked his preferred team, albeit a lame one.
Flop of the Match
This was one of those games of irreconcilable contrast in performance. 22 men filed unto the pitch. However, as the game progressed it began to look more like 11 men in blue and 11 mannequins posing in red Adidas shirts. Starting from United’s goalkeeper: four shots on target, four goals. Depending on how you look at it, David De Gea may deserve to be rated the worst performer in this game. However, apart from maybe Bailly and Valencia, no teammate of his deserves a flute blow for them. Ibrahimovic yet again was kept under protective custody and he did little to break out from his cage. Paul Pogba was charitable with the ball like it was Christmas already and Chris Smalling was a horrific leader at the back. United’s spine just could not compete with a fired-up Chelsea side. In short, the flop of the match goes to Team Man United.
Mourinho brought on Juan Mata to give United more invention, lending credence to the argument that the Spaniard should have started the game. It was a good move but by then Chelsea already had too much control. Mata could not have as much effect on the game as he would have liked. Marcos Rojo and Antonio Martial came in for Bailly and Lindgard but only Rojo had any sort of impact with his extra-time shot drawing a quality save from Courtois. Conte’s three subs: Willian, Batshuayi and Chalobah were all in for the formality.
Most Valuable Player
In a game where so many players in one team were dazzling it is always difficult to pick the best man. With eyes shut we’ll go for Victor Moses. He had a point to prove, which is that he was not given his fair opportunities under Mourinho while the Portuguese was still the Chelsea Pharaoh. Moses was always amongst the best performers in pre-season but was a serial victim of the club’s loan system. Today he used his opportunity to prove to his former honcho that he ought to have believed more in him. He didn’t get a touch wrong, made clearances and interceptions and was unbeatable in 1-v-1s despite coming up against Rashford, Pogba, Martial and Blind at intervals. His constant direct runs and dribbles caused United all sorts of migraine during the game. He could have capped it with a goal too but for some last-ditch defending by the red tomatoes.
Apart from only punishing David Luiz’s high studs challenge on Fellaini with a yellow, Martin Atkinson had a good game. His decision not to send off Luiz is one that has been taken by many officials during such high-stakes games. He also allowed a couple of professional fouls on Diego Costa go unpunished early on, to the dismay of the combative Spaniard. There were not many controversial decisions beyond these as the ref stood by and watched Chelsea carve their rivals open in PlayStation fashion.
After consecutive damaging defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, Chelsea have finally laid a marker for the title race. The manner of the performance would also be very encouraging for the Roman army. This game perhaps also put paid to the doubts over whether Conte’s three-man back line can function in the Premier League. Chelsea, end the night just a point from the top of the table while United fall deeper into dystopia. Mourinho came to Stamford Bridge in hunt of treasure but left limping like Long John Silver. Chelsea made life really nasty, brutish and short for him; and let’s face it, United are in such a scandalous state they may actually need to hire an Olivia Pope for the fix… maybe even an Eva Caneiro.