Narratives invert after Chelsea routs Aston Villa

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After one of the most lopsided matches you’ll ever witness at soccer’s top level, Chelsea is no longer the shriveling shell of a European champion emasculated by a shaming trip abroad. And Aston Villa is no longer the feel-good story of a consolidating youth movement smolten by an up-and-coming coach. After 90 minutes and eight goals Sunday at Stamford Bridge, those narratives were destroyed, Chelsea handing Villa an 8-0 thrashing in London.

With a score that lopsided, it goes without saying it could have been worse. Chelsea put 15 shots on target to Villa’s one. They also had a penalty kick saved by Brad Guzan, the Villa keeper’s last act of defiance after goals from Fernando Torres, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic, Frank Lampard, Ramires, Oscar, and Eden Hazard gave the American a platoon of tormenters to take to the team psychologist. Villa was so bad, they let Ramires score twice, the Brazilian’s 90th minute goal mercifully ending the embarrassment.

The performance crushes any notion Aston Villa are on the rise. They came into the match in 16th place, only three points above the drop, but having gone undefeated in six, Villa was thought to be the ascendent. Now you look back at their run and see a League Cup win, games with Reading, Queens Park Rangers, and Stoke, and a home draw with a brand-over-substance Arsenal.

But Aston Villa’s win last week at Liverpool — a 3-1 victory that saw Christian Benteke and the Villa counter bayonet the Reds — would have been enough to carry hope into today’s match. Even if their unbeaten run was built more on wish-casting than results, the victory at Anfield was enough to expect better on Sunday. Have any expectations been so devastatingly ill-placed?

But just as the narrative of a surging Villa was eviscerated at Stamford Bridge, so was the Chelsea fans’ worry after a demoralizing trip to Japan. There they lost the Club World Cup, leaving the few (mostly South American) players who care about the competition bawling on the field as Corinthians celebrated a world title. That tactics sheets pulled from the team’s garbage misspelled the name of Corinthians’ goalscorer while stating obvious strategic admonitions (watch for counter attacks after corner kicks) added a layer of farce to a cringeworthy trip.

Crushing another Premier League team always has a was of making everything seem better, especially when there are so many positives beyond the ridiculous score. The win moved Chelsea back into their place, the team holding a game in hand on the collection of challengers who’d temporarily passed them. Frank Lampard was back. David Luiz looked good in midfield (and over dead balls, as the second goal showed). Fernando Torres actually scored a goal. All the ancillary positives meant the game could have ended 2-0 and given Chelsea one of their most positive afternoons of the season.

And it’s with that perspective that today’s true significance lies. As far-fetched as an 8-0 scoreline seems, it’s only one result. One team got three points. The other got none. Where the real implications lie are in the future.

(MORE: Other talking points on the 8-0 shellacking)

For Chelsea, there’s little doubt the Rafa Benítez mistake is starting to come good. It was a bad hire at the wrong time, but a man with his track record is bound to bring some positives to the job. After such an unambiguous sign that the fall’s worries are receding, Chelsea fans can discard their misgivings and begin to embrace the melancholy of the next six months.

No, Chelsea’s not title contenders. And yes, life with Rafa’s going to be a six months of waiting for a terrible roommate to finally move out. But now, there’s something positive to build on.

For Aston Villa, they’ve stumbled back down the stairs. For all the positives fans have seen in Paul Lambert’s first season, the team is still a relegation candidate. While they’re not favorites to go down, they’ve shown themselves capable of that special kind of horrible that may never assuage doubts. Not even the good runs can been seen as independent of the specter that another Stamford Bridge waits around the corner.

Villa’s now three points above the drop and have the worse goal difference in the Premier League. And their next game is against Tottenham, a team just as capable as Chelsea of exploiting the terrible defending on display at Stamford Bridge. And there’s no guarantee Brad Guzan will be as good on Wednesday.

That’s the power of 90 minutes. Chelsea and Aston Villa had spent weeks building their narratives, and within 90 minutes (much fewer, if you consider the disparity was clear long before the final whistle) their stories were destroyed. The surging swapped places with the morose.

You see that about as often as you see an 8-0 final.

Timeline of Mourinho’s demise: How, when, why it went wrong

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Where did it all go wrong for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United?

[ MORE: Mourinho fired by United ] 

After finishing in second place last season and showing clear progress from his first full season in charge, everything began to unravel during United’s preseason tour of the U.S. in July.

[ MORE: Bookies odds on new manager ] 

Below is a look at the timeline of Mourinho’s demise, as his demeanor changed and once again he was hit by the third-season syndrome which is threatening to overshadow his success as one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen.


Timeline of Mourinho’s demise: July to December, 2018

“We are in trouble” – July, 29 2018: Repeats multiple times that United are in “trouble” as he wanted to sign new central defenders Harry Maguire and others.

Meeting with Woodward goes viral – August 1, 2018: Shown having a rather heated exchange with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in Miami after United’s final game of their preseason tour in the U.S. as it appears he will not sign the central defender he wanted.

“You cannot buy class” – August, 18 2018: Hits out at Manchester City after their ‘All or Nothing’ documentary shows players mocking him. “You cannot buy class and they showed that clearly, that was really obvious.”

Defeat at Brighton – August, 19 2018: Mourinho’s men lose at Brighton in a shocking defensive display which was to become one of the main reasons for their worst-ever start to a season.

Defeat at home against Tottenham, “respect, respect, respect” – August, 27 2018: After a 3-0 defeat at home by Tottenham, Mourinho demanded more respect from journalists who were questioning him as he stormed out of a press conference. “This [holding three fingers up]. 3-0, 3-0. Do you know what this is? 3-0. But it also means three Premierships and I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me and two for them two. So respect man, respect, respect, respect.”

Fallout with Pogba caught on TV cameras – September 26, 2018: Cameras at United’s training ground show Mourinho having a go at Pogba and United’s midfielder hitting back at him. This was all centered around an Instagram video that Pogba had posted while in the stands at Old Trafford watching United’s League Cup defeat to second-tier Derby County a few days earlier.

Defeat at West Ham – September 29, 2018: A 3-1 hammering at the Hammers again underlined the defensive shambles his team had become. Pogba was subbed out in the second half and when asked to talk to reporters after the game he simply said: “You want me dead?”

Hits out at Chelsea fans after draw – October, 20, 2018: Manchester United let in a late stoppage time goal at Chelsea to draw 2-2. Mourinho then hits out at Chelsea’s fans, holding up three fingers to let them know how many Premier League titles he had won for the club.

Defeat at Man City – November 18, 2018: Demolished by Man City 3-1 in the Manchester Derby, this underlined just how far United had fallen behind their closest rivals atop the table.

“We will be in the top four in January” – November 23, 2018: Mourinho declares that United will be in the top four of the Premier League by the end of December after the busy festive period. His team then went on a run of just one win in five games, which ended with him being fired. He left United 11 points off the top four.

Statement released by Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes – December 10, 2018: Jorge Mendes released a statement saying that “Jose is very happy at the club and the club is very happy with him.” That came amid reports that Real Madrid wanted him to return as their manager. Mourinho said he “didn’t care” about Mendes’ statement and it was not his statement.

Defeat at Liverpool – December 16, 2018: A 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, after which Mourinho questioned the “physicality” of his players, praised Liverpool and then rattled off his success at previous teams Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. In his final media appearance as United’s manager, perhaps he knew the end was near.

Social media reacts to Jose Mourinho’s exit

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Jose Mourinho has been fired by Manchester United and social media was set alight as the combative Portuguese coach was finally given his marching orders.

[ MORE: Mourinho fired by United

Once again he has been sacked in the third season of a job, with United sitting in sixth place in the Premier League table, 19 points off leaders Liverpool and 11 points off the top four.

[ MORE: Pogba deletes social media post

The soccer world has been having its say, with Mourinho’s departure huge news across the globe.

Here is a look at some of the big names who have been having their say.


Bookies odds for next Man United manager

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The bookmakers are dishing out odds for who the next permanent Manchester United manager will be, but things are a little complicated.

[ MORE: Mourinho fired by United ]

After firing Jose Mourinho on Tuesday it is believed that United will appoint an interim coach who will steady the ship between now and the end of the season. And then they will appoint a new manager in the summer, with a complete restructuring of the club behind-the-scenes with a technical director appointed to help the manager.

Many believe that United’s number one target is Mauricio Pochettino, but Tottenham’s Argentine boss is unlucky to leave midway through the season and with Spurs on the verge of moving into their fantastic new stadium. Pochettino only signed a new deal in the summer, which ties him to Spurs until 2023.

[ MORE: Pogba deletes social media post

Via Oddschecker, here is a look at the favorites to be named the next manager of United.


Zinedine Zidane: 4/1
Laurent Blanc: 10/1
Michael Carrick: 14/1
Antonio Conte: 16/1
Leonardo Jardim: 16/1
Eddie Howe: 16/1
Jupp Heynckes: 20/1
Guus Hiddink: 20/1
Lucien Favre: 25/1
Mauricio Pochettino: 25/1
Nicky Butt: 25/1
Arsene Wenger: 25/1

Pogba deletes social media post after Mourinho’s exit

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Paul Pogba has deleted a social media post which went live just a few minutes after Jose Mourinho was fired as Manchester United’s manager.

On Tuesday Pogba put up a photo of him smirking on Instagram, with the comment: “Caption this!”

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Given Pogba’s very public spat with Mourinho over the past few months, putting up something like this only further fuels the fire that United’s superstar midfielder has continued to clash with his former manager.

That said, this could been a poorly scheduled post from a company Pogba was working with and nothing more and it appears Pogba was working with adidas at an event on Monday.

Still, this simple response from Manchester United legend Gary Neville summed it up.

Pogba was left on the bench for United’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool, which turned out to be Mourinho’s final game, and in recent weeks the World Cup winner has been reduced to cameo appearances from the subs bench.