Jose Mourinho has restored his damaged ego from Manchester United’s two previous losses to Chelsea with a convincing 2-0 win over Conte at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho, who lost to his old team at Stamford Bridge 4-0, has obviously been thinking about this game for a while now as several key tactics he did unsettled Conte’s Chelsea.
Mourinho deployed Ander Herrera into a right-midfielder position but in truth, Herrera didn’t have a position. He was deployed solely to mark and tackle Chelsea’s Eden Hazard out of the game. This worked brilliantly for Manchester United as it negated Hazard’s threat which ultimately resulted in the rest of the Blues crumbling.
Additionally Jose obviously instructed Marcos Rojo and co to bully Diego Costa physically and to wind him up. Jose knows exactly what to do to wind up Diego Costa. He used to manage him of course.
But the biggest surprise and perhaps the best tactical decision Jose made was to play Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard up front and bench Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The pace and directness of Lingard and Rashford were just too much for the Chelsea defence. David Luiz in particular had a bad game while Cahill was of no help. In-fact Cahill could be seen helping a United player up from his feet before they scored the second goal.
Mourinho had studied for this game much in advance. He certainly didn’t come up with these tactics just two days after coming from Anderlecht where they drew 1-1. Mourinho’s ego was bruised in the Stamford Bridge 4-0 defeat and it was time for revenge.
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While Mourinho deployed Fellaini and Pogba in a fearsome physical midfield which proved too much for the small but ever-present Kante and Matic.
The game itself was not a pleasant game to watch for neutrals or for Chelsea fans. It was stop-start throughout the match as both teams were fouling each other consistently.
But Manchester United did what Mourinho set out to do. Which was to stop Chelsea playing football. And it worked. Hazard was fouled repeatedly all game which the referee failed to control. Costa, admittedly was terrible. He flopped to the ground whenever a player went near him. So from a Chelsea fan, I applaud Mourinho. His tactics worked.
Additionally his mind games worked. Prior to this game Mourinho said Chelsea “defend with 11 players”. He also implied that Chelsea play negative tactics while Manchester United attack. But this wasn’t the case at Old Trafford. Mourinho did exactly what he criticized Conte for doing. He defended with 11 players. He played big physical players and he targeted Hazard. Hazard was effectively kicked out of the game.
Conte will no doubt go back to the drawing board and think of ways to deal with teams that use the high-press and who man-mark Hazard out of the game. He also needs to figure out what to do with the defence.
Chelsea were unlucky though that they had Marcos Alonso pull out of the game in the warm up due to feeling ill. While they didn’t have their number one goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
But in the end good win for Jose and well-earned. Chelsea are now only four points ahead of Tottenham and will now face some pressure to win their remaining games.
Mourinho has no hope of winning the title and has a scarce hope of making the top four. His motivation for this game was simple. It was personal. He wanted to restore his broken ego. Good win for Jose Mourinho.