LONDON — Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0 on Sunday in an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for Jose Mourinho.
[ RECAP: Chelsea batter United ]
Here’s what we learned from a humbling afternoon for Mourinho back in west London.
NIGHTMARE RETURN FOR MOURINHO
“You’re not special anymore!”
“You’re getting sacked in the morning!”
“Who are ya? Who are ya?”
Those were just sum of the chants directed at Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho on his first return to Chelsea since he was sacked last December.
It was an incredibly uncomfortable afternoon for Mourinho as his side fell behind after 30 seconds and never truly recovered.
A man who has been revered around the Kings Road for over a decade had the indignity of being torn apart in front of them. Only once had a Mourinho side conceded four or more goals in a Premier League game, but his side simply waved the white flag when it came to their defensive responsibilities. Going forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard were denied by the brilliant Thibaut Courtois, but United were never truly in this.
A shocking display was summed up by N’Golo Kante’s goal to make it 4-0. The French midfielder waltzed into the box and past a token challenge from Chris Smalling and then Paul Pogba made no effort to track Kante as he held his arms in the air. That one action alone summed up Mourinho’s return to Chelsea.
Chelsea’s fans sung Jose Mourinho’s name loudly after they went 4-0 up. But instead of the happiness it was usually sung with during the three PL titles he delivered in five full seasons in charge, there was a smugness in the tone. The Blues have moved on without Mourinho and the toxic atmosphere his departure created last season. After this abject display, Mourinho will have to work incredibly hard to move on from this.
Standing on the halfway line for the final 20 minutes of the game with his hands in his pockets, the Portuguese coach looked lost in a place where it always felt like he would be a champion forever. With 14 points from his opening nine games this season, maybe the fans are right. Maybe he isn’t special anymore…
FULL BACKS CAUGHT OUT
United simply couldn’t get to grip with Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation. They got it all wrong defensively. A United side which was able to shut down Liverpool expertly on Monday at Anfield were set up to defend resolutely once again, but Pedro’s goal after 30 seconds changed all of that.
The gaps between center backs Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly were huge. Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia couldn’t cope without Pedro and Eden Hazard cutting in from the flanks and both Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford provided no defensive help out wide.
Conte’s Chelsea have now scored nine goals, won three-straight games and conceded none since he switched to a 3-4-3 formation.
It was always going to take the Italian coach time to find his feet in the Premier League and adapt his defensive methods but he’s found the correct formula to get the best out of his players. Chelsea looked perfectly balanced but United’s inability to shut their wide players down certainly made them look much more effective.
CONTE BUILDING MOMENTUM
Racing around his technical area like a madman throughout, Antonio Conte is a born winner. You can see it in his eyes.
It’s tough to see know how much of a difference his antics make to his team on the pitch, but how would you not want to play for him? He is a hard task master, even for the fans. With United’s fans singing away as their side trailed 4-0, Conte took his eyes off the game and urged the home fans to sing.
The entire stadium began to chant. The Italian has an infectious desire and drive within him and thinking back to Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal last month, he’s made big changes to the way they play and it’s paying dividends.
You could almost say it reminded you of a certain Portuguese coach in his early days.
At the final whistle Mourinho and Conte embraced but the former lent in and had plenty to say to Conte. The Italian boss didn’t seem impressed. He has that swagger about him.