Saturday 10 December 2016

'Special One' mocked by crowd as his former charges make light work of shambolic United

Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United

Mark Ogden

Published 24/10/2016 | 02:30

N'Golo Kante scores Chelsea's fourth goal at Stamford Bridge Photo: GLYN KIRK / AFP / Getty Images
N'Golo Kante scores Chelsea's fourth goal at Stamford Bridge Photo: GLYN KIRK / AFP / Getty Images

Awful, shambolic, clueless and humiliated, but definitely not special.

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Jose Mourinho, Chelsea's Special One, is looking very ordinary at Manchester United and this hammering against his old team at Stamford Bridge exposed the magnitude of the job he now has on his hands at Old Trafford.

Chelsea players celebrate after N'Golo Kante put away their fourth goal Photo: GLYN KIRK / AFP / Getty Images
Chelsea players celebrate after N'Golo Kante put away their fourth goal Photo: GLYN KIRK / AFP / Getty Images

By the end of his first return to Chelsea with United, the Stamford Bridge crowd were sarcastically chanting Mourinho's name and giving out 'olés' as Antonio Conte's team stroked the ball around against their shell-shocked opponents.

Mourinho has landed into a black hole at United. He has inherited a team which cannot defend properly or attack with intent.

It is a team bereft of top quality, with expensive additions such as Paul Pogba repeatedly failing to shine and Henrikh Mkhitaryan seemingly already ostracised to a life outside the squad.

Mourinho had insisted United would challenge for the title this season, but this defeat leaves them five points adrift of the top four. They are also facing a battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Chelsea's Nemanja Matic (left) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba battle for control of the ball Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
Chelsea's Nemanja Matic (left) and Manchester United's Paul Pogba battle for control of the ball Photo: John Walton/PA Wire

Chelsea, meanwhile, having romped to victory with goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante, are beginning to look the team Mourinho guided to the title just 18 months ago.

Endure

There was a certainly a flatness to Mourinho ahead of this game; none of the old bravado, just a quiet, respectful tone, almost as though this fixture was an ordeal that he simply had to endure.

Within Stamford Bridge, it was also muted. With this game falling close to the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, all banners relating to Mourinho and the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard were removed, with only those referring to Harding visible around the stadium.

So there was no Mourinho reception, not even a polite applause as he took his seat.

The United manager was out of it less than a minute later, mind you, thanks to an awful defensive misunderstanding between Daley Blind and Chris Smalling gifting Chelsea their opening goal through Pedro after just 29 seconds.

Mourinho had obviously sent his team out with a strict game-plan, but it was in shreds once Pedro - who came close to signing for United prior to his arrival at Chelsea from Barcelona last season - stroked the ball into the net. Marcos Alonso's ball from left-back should have posed no trouble to the United defence, but Smalling allowed it to run behind him, mistakenly believing that Blind was in place to clear.

Blind hesitated, created a gap between himself and Smalling and allowed Pedro to snatch the ball before rounding the stranded David de Gea in the United goal.

Mourinho reacted without reaction. He was motionless in the technical area, projecting a mask of indifference when he must have been seething inside.

It was an awful way to concede and Blind, once again preferred at left-back ahead of Luke Shaw, who was not even on the bench, proceeded to have a terrible first half.

At one stage, Mourinho made his way to the technical area when the Dutchman was taking a throw-in, simply to pat him on the back in reassurance.

United, without the injured Wayne Rooney who stayed at home, attempted to respond quickly after Pedro's opener and Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw a shot blocked by David Luiz before he headed another chance over the bar from six yards.

The Swedish forward started the season well, but he is now looking as though he is feeling the pace of the Premier League after three years of rather less intensity in France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic embodied United's attacking efforts in contrast to Chelsea's. They were laboured and predictable, while Chelsea were quick and dangerous and the home team's second came on 21 minutes following another defensive lapse by United.

Ander Herrera failed to clear a Victor Moses corner, the ball dropped to Cahill, who volleyed it home from six yards.

United responded again, with Marcus Rashford seeing a shot blocked by Cesar Azpilicueta, but Mourinho will be worried about their predictability.

And at the other end, Blind continued to suffer his nightmare, losing possession to Pedro before being rescued by a crucial De Gea save.

That was the signal for Mourinho to turn to his substitutes, sending them out to warm up, three at a time.

Ten years ago, during his first spell in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho would have thought nothing of making the change there and then, but he waited until the interval to replace Marouane Fellaini - hurt by a wild knee-high challenge by David Luiz - with Juan Mata.

Mourinho could have made three changes quite easily. Stamford Bridge has never been a happy hunting ground for United - Alex Ferguson's treble winners lost 5-0 here just five months after lifting the European Cup in 1999 - but the Portuguese will have been dismayed by his team's meek surrender.

Mata's introduction enabled United to at least enjoy more control and possession of the ball early in the second half, but it was soft possession and Chelsea were hardly troubled as the visitors passed and passed, but barely troubled Thibaut Courtois.

Pogba, the £89m midfielder, was anonymous again, doing little to justify his exorbitant fee, with Nemanja Matic and Kante tying him in knots in the centre of the pitch.

Outstanding

Hazard was just as anonymous as Pogba under Mourinho for Chelsea last season, but the Belgian was outstanding in front of his former manager and it was he who set the seal on United's defeat.

The Chelsea number 10 began the move on the edge of United box, cutting onto his right foot before laying the ball off to Kante.

Kante then fed Matic, who returned the ball to Hazard inside the penalty area. Hazard took a touch, moved the ball outside Smalling and passed it into the net. Game over.

But while the game was won, Chelsea hadn't stopped inflicting the pain on Mourinho, with Kante inflicting another wound on 70 minutes with their fourth. Kante, supposedly a destroyer, displayed true flair by dancing around the hopeless Smalling before guiding the ball past De Gea.

Chelsea, who wobbled with defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, are now beginning to motor under Conte. But Mourinho still has not been able to get United out of reverse.

Independent News Service

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