Jose Mourinho: Chelsea had Manchester United’s stars “in our pockets.” Is he right?

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho is the best in the business at grinding out a win.

On Saturday his Chelsea side increased their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 10 points after they beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge following a resolute, composed and ultra-defensive display.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Yes, Chelsea were out-played for most of the game and sat back to invite pressure from United but Mourinho insisted in his post-game press conference that letting United play the lead role was the plan all along. Then Eden Hazard delivered the moment of magic which sealed the victory.

“I think the team was fantastic and I am the one who knows how fantastic it was,” Mourinho said. “The game was exactly what we want and when you manage to play the game we want to play, it is fantastic. The game was exactly what we were working for the game to be. The players were magnificent and on top of that Eden [Hazard] had that magic that the top ones have, especially in the big matches. Obviously it was fundamental for us.”

Mourinho also added that “we prepared for it to be like this. It was the game we wanted and expected,” and the went on to claim that Chelsea’s gameplan had work perfectly and wasn’t as difficult as they’d expected it to be.

“It was difficult, but less than you think,” Mourinho said. “Control their direct football to Marouane Fellaini and control the wingers from making crosses on the inside foot. When we know Wayne Rooney plays in midfield, we control his progression into the box. Control set-pieces and don’t give away direct free-kicks as they have three specialists. Wait for a mistake and score a goal. We were able to make their important players disappear. Nobody saw them. They were in our pockets.”

[ RELATED: Van Gaal hails United’s “best match of season” ]

United had 70 percent of possession, 15 shots to Chelsea’s seven and hit the woodwork through Radamel Falcao. Falcao, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney all went close after a mixture of slack shooting and brave blocks from Chelsea’s defense. Mourinho set up his side to thwart United’s attacking impetus and the likes of Fellaini and Mata were certainly nowhere near as influential as they’d been in previous games as the Red Devils’ six-game winning streak came to and end.

Mourinho — who worked under Louis van Gaal at Barcelona from 1997-2000 and considers the Dutchman a close friend — got one over the master, as the apprentice showed that he can shuffle his team and stifle opponents masterfully whenever he wants to. It might not win many plaudits or get people waxing lyrical about the Chelsea side of 2014-15 — even if in the early parts of the season Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and others were ripping it up and playing sensational soccer before the trials and tribulations of fighting for four trophies took its toll on the squad — but these tactics get results. Will any Chelsea fan celebrating their inevitable PL title success on the Kings Road in late May when Mourinho and Co. are waving the trophy off an open top bus really stand there and say “well, this doesn’t feel great. We should have played more attractive soccer.” Of course not.

With Kurt Zouma deployed in the holding role alongside Nemanja Matic, Chelsea completley shut off the area in front of their back four and Fellaini had to drift wider and wider as the game wore on to try and see the ball. Mata was subbed off due to his ineffective display and even though van Gaal believed it was United’s “best match of the season,” they failed to score and Chelsea looked solid and steady to grind out their fourth one-goal win in a row.

source: Getty Images
Chelsea’s players celebrated their win over United like they had won the PL.

It isn’t pretty, but it is championship form. Wins like Saturday, against a top team who are riding high and will no doubt continue their rebuild over the summer and challenge for the PL title next season, are exactly why the Blues will win the league.

Mourinho isn’t letting an air of complacency settle in at Stamford Bridge. That was evident when he was told that captain John Terry had said the league was all but Chelsea’s in a separate interview.

“No, and I am not happy if John said that,” Mourinho barked. “We need eight points to be champion. Football is not about if, it is not about almost. It is about mathematics and when mathematically it is done we celebrate. Until that moment, we need two victories and two draws to be champions.”

Mourinho insisted that despite a lengthy and incredibly jovial celebration from his players at the end of the game, he has not lost focus and will be “ready to work again next week and make the players feel there is still a long way to go.”

Same old Mourinho. Boring or not, his tactical masterclasses get results and away at Arsenal next week expect another stifling display from his side. If every manager could pull off his meticulous attention to defensive detail, then they would have no hesitation in doing so. The dark arts of defending first at all costs continue to get Mourinho and Chelsea results.

Arsenal bests Eintracht Frankfurt behind teen hero Saka

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Arsenal got its Europa League campaign off to a pleasant if uneasy start, riding a deflected first half goal and solid goalkeeping before breaking out late for 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank-Arena on Thursday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Joe Willock scored the early marker, while newly-minted 18-year-old Bukayo Saka capped a strong performance with a late insurance marker and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put it to bed.

American defender Timothy Chandler was a second half sub for the Bundesliga hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeeper matters huge: Even as underrated Bernd Leno got a night off, Arsenal got a big performance from its goalkeeper. Eintracht took double the shots of its visitors over the first hour of play. Emiliano Martinez made his season debut and was very, very good for the Gunners. He played just one Europa League match last season and spent half the year with Reading on loan, but the 27-year-old looks in line for more experience this season and even played a role in Arsenal’s second goal.

2. Young stars shine: Willock was very good in the win, and produced several nice chances, but it’s fair to say that his goal was a good deal of Fortune. Saka’s big day was even brighter. The 18-year-old was a menace for most of the day, and scored a deserved goal late off a Nicolas Pepe feed. Saka then forced the turnover that led to Aubameyang’s goal, Arsenal’s third.

What a hit for his goal, too.

3. Emery deploys star subs: Unai Emery knows a bit about winning this competition, and he took out Willock and Smith-Rowe in order to protect the lead late (He also put in Ainsley Maitland-Niles for Sead Kolasinac, who was on a yellow card). He deployed fire power in Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, which was unlikely a welcome site for the hosts.


Martinez was exceptional in posting his clean sheet, needing many big moments in the first half to allow Arsenal its 0-0 score line before fortune smiled upon the Gunners.

Willock’s shot took a mean turn off Eintracht mainstay center back David Abraham to produce a halftime lead (see video below Thing No. 3).

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

The floodgates opened late, doubtlessly aided by a second yellow card dished out to Eintracht’s Dominic Kohr.

Martinez’s day went to the wire, tipping a Danny da Costa ball away before denying Filip Kostic with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

He then started the play that led to Arsenal’s second goal, finding Pepe for a long dribble en route to Saka’s career milestone. He turned 18 just two weeks ago.

It was a day to remember for Saka and one to forget for Abraham, as the teen stripped the Eintracht captain of the ball before making a silky pass to Aubameyang.

UEL, LIVE — Man Utd, Wolves face Kazakh, Portuguese opposition

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany and taking care of 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.

A younger Arsenal took the lead on a deflected shot from Man of the Match candidate Joe Willock, before Bukayo Saka took the MOTM mantle with a late goal and assist.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Manchester United and Wolves are set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Lineups are out for both sides. United will be very young against Kazakh side Astana ahead of a Sunday visit to West Ham United, while Wolves start Raul Jimenez and Patrick Cutrone up top versus Braga.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

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Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.


How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?


Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.


Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?


Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?


Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Hudson-Odoi signs new deal with Chelsea

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Man, is Bayern Munich gonna feel like it wasted its time.

Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi has re-upped with the Premier League side to the tune of five more years, inking a deal through at least the 2023-24 season.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

Hudson-Odoi, 18, made his breakthrough with Chelsea last season and was heavily recruited by the German giants.

He joins Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic as young wingers committed to the club for the long-term, but is still away from the Blues first team after an achilles tear late last season. He registered an assist in 61 minutes for Chelsea’s PL2 side last week.

Here’s manager Frank Lampard, via ChelseaFC.com:

“I have seen Callum come through and he’s a fantastic talent. He is going to be central for us on the pitch and that is the opportunity in front of him now. There are things as a young player that he will want to improve but he can be central to this team and for England. I want to work with him, I want to drive him forward and I want to improve him as a player.”

Hudson-Odoi has five goals and five assists in 28 appearances for the Blues and isn’t 19 until November.

American eyes can’t help but wonder how this will affect Christian Pulisic, himself a big investment for Chelsea. One thing’s for sure: Chelsea has depth on the wings.