Jose Mourinho bags 100th Premier League win, but are Chelsea title favorites?

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LONDON – Jose Mourinho celebrated his 100th Premier League win in charge of Chelsea on Sunday in style, as his swaggering side ruthlessly dispatched Manchester United with a sublime display of clinical finishing.

Mourinho, who reached the milestone after just 142 games, became the fastest manager in PL history to reach a ton and his Chelsea side is hitting peak form at just the right time.

On the pitch Samuel Eto’o was the hero, as the Cameroonian striker bagged a hat trick in a rout that showcased why Mourinho’s men are serious contenders for the PL crown. With five wins in a row, the Blues are hot on the heels of Arsenal and Manchester City above them and they highlighted many of the reasons why Man United are languishing in seventh.

As for Mourinho’s big day, the Portuguese boss brushed off his remarkable achievement when speaking to reporters after the 3-1 win.

“What it means to me is that we won today, I don’t care about the record,” Mourinho said. “I don’t like these records like ‘how many matches we have won at home’, blah, blah, blah. I want to win the next match. It’s quite a coincidence that the 100th win was against Man United, as the first win came against them and the previous owner of the record was the Man United manager, so it’s quite a coincidence. But the important thing for me is that these 100 wins have given 300 points to Chelsea, and especially today these three points are very important for us.”

After the third goal went in just after half time, the home fans around Stamford Bridge could relax. They promptly belted out chants of “Super Chelsea. Super Chelsea FC. We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.”

Many would argue they’re the best team in the Premier League right now, and favorites to win the title, but what did Mourinho think of his sides performance?

“We have to improve, I want better,” Mourinho said. “The first twenty minutes were not good, we have to improve. I want us to be in control of the game since the beginning and we were not. But the good thing was that we kept calm and kept the organization. But I want my team to do better. We have good kids and good players and the older one gave stability to the team.”

(MORE: Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United: Eto’o hat-trick extends Moyes misery)

As Mourinho’s comments reinforce, United were the better team for the opening 15-20 minutes, but Eto’o’s opener change the complexion of the match.

source: AP
Chelsea prevailed as their trio of young attackers, plus a clinical Samuel Eto’o, dispatched United ruthlessly.

It was a big call from Mourinho to start Eto’o up top on his own (especially with Fernando Torres in blistering form with two goals in his last two PL matches) and have a young attacking trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Willian supporting him from midfield.

But Eto’o, and the young attackers, delivered. Big time. Eto’o, so often a man for the big occasion, came up with the goods once again in his glittering career, as the 32-year-old became only the fourth player in PL history to score a hat trick against United, joining Romelu Lukaku, Dirk Kuyt and David Bentley.

His first goal came courtesy of a curling effort that deflected off Michael Carrick and past David De Gea, while his second was a tap in from Gary Cahill’s cross and Eto’o’s third was a clinical prod home from close range.

Mourinho hailed Eto’o’s clinical performance and gave his reasons for starting with the veteran, instead of in-form Spaniard Fernando Torres.

“It is a fantastic moment, for one of my players to score a hat trick against Manchester United,” Mourinho said. “My thought was that Man United is not coming here to give me spaces behind the defensive line. United will come here to be compact, with Jones and Carrick in front of Vidic and Evans. I thought Samuel is more of a player that has better technical ability and is good in small spaces. His movement in small spaces is different than Fernando, it was a difficult decisions because Fernando is scoring goals. My feeling for this game was that Samuel was better adapted.”

That hunch paid off big time for Mourinho.

Buoyed by Eto’o’s opener in the 17th minute, Chelsea stormed forward in search of a second in the first half. Hazard showed United defenders Rafael and Nemanja Vidic a clean set of heels on numerous occasions as the Belgian youngster sped down the left wing with real purpose for most of the afternoon.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

In the 40th minute came a great example of what Chelsea’s philosophy is all about. Willian raced clear down the left on the break, then played the ball inside to Hazard who jinxed and darted in amongst United’s defense before cleverly scooping the ball to Eto’o. The Cameroon striker saw his effort deflected in the path of Oscar whose acrobatic bicycle kick went just over the bar.

You want to talk about Chelsea’s style? In that 20 second passage of play, all that’s good about Mourinho’s counter-attacking philosophy was on display. This was a glimpse of how the Blues can win the title, as they clinically dispatched the visitors.

That’s a quality Mourinho admires and enjoyed from his side.

“My players showed solidarity,” Mourinho said. “Normally we need four or five chances to score a goal. Today first shot, first goal. Second shot, second goal. So things were going in our favor.”

Chants of “Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho” rung out from the majority of the 41,465 fans crammed into one of English soccer’s most famous grounds as the game petered out into a comfortable Chelsea win as the home side got the breaks. Were Chelsea that good? Or United just quite bad? It’s unclear whether or not this was the best examination of the West London sides title credentials.

Regardless, the ‘Special One’ got a ruthless and clinical performance from his side, as their defensive solidity and lightning-quick attacks showcased exactly how Mourinho plans to get another 100 wins in the PL. If they carry on like this, it’s hard to not see them winning the PL title this season.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.