LONDON — Jose Mourinho and Manchester United were up for the fight in more ways than one at Chelsea on Saturday.
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The beleaguered Red Devils let in a 96th minute equalizer to leave Stamford Bridge disappointed but with a renewed sense of belief as they made top of the table Chelsea sweat, especially in the second half.
The way Mourinho’s men fought back from 1-0 down to go 2-1 up (thanks to Anthony Martial‘s two goals) proved they can still go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the Premier League. And the way Mourinho acted on the sidelines after being antagonized by Chelsea coach Marco Ianni underlined the fighting spirt which still burns bright, despite reports that United’s manager was set to be fired two weeks ago.
Ross Barkley‘s late, late equalizer meant that Chelsea remain unbeaten under Maurizio Sarri but the Blues knew they had got away with one after a powerful display from United who looked so much better with the shackles off compared to their usually defensive tactics away from home against a fellow top six club.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho and United felt like they deserved more ahead of a huge few weeks which sees them face Juventus twice in the UEFA Champions League, Everton and Manchester City.
“I think it was a fantastic game with a fantastic result for Chelsea and an awful result for us,” Mourinho said. “When you are the best team you want to win. If somebody tells me before the game you go to Stamford Bridge and you get a point, you say, ‘that is okay, it is good.’ It is so difficult to win at Stamford Bridge that I think every team feels that one point is a positive result. We were so much in control, so much the best team in the second half that I think we clearly deserved to win the match. Bad result.”
On the situation with Ianni, Mourinho said he has spoken to Sarri about it and Chelsea’s assistant coach had apologized to him and that was the end of the matter.
“Bad education,” Mourinho said. “But I also made mistakes in football match and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”
The way Mourinho reacted sparked a melee and his message to Chelsea’s fans at the final whistle was classic behavior from a born fighter backed into a corner in recent weeks.
Mourinho held three fingers up to Chelsea’s fans to remind them how many Premier League titles he had won for them in the past.
And that fighting spirit was shown by his players as this draw at Chelsea was more impressive than their stirring 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle before the international break. A more offensive lineup choice from Mourinho saw Paul Pogba, Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford cause Chelsea plenty of problems in the second half and slack defensive marking from Pogba on the first goal and overall on the second cost them all three points.
What impressed Mourinho the most about the spirited display from his side?
“Everything. I think what I call the Chelsea triggers, we controlled them,” Mourinho said. “The reality is that we concede two goals in set pieces, not goals in organized play. We controlled that very, very well and we put lots of feet in the last third in the first half. In the second half we managed to transform that in occasions to goals and ambition with good intensity, good passing, good quality. We deserved much more than this result, but it is what it is.”
This draw proved that United’s season is far from over and Mourinho’s men are capable of fighting along with their manager to finish in the top four this season.