Saturday 29 April 2017

Video: Blues deny showdown talks with Villas-Boas

Roman Abramovich's backing of Andre Villas-Boaswill tested to the limit if Chelsea fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League
Roman Abramovich's backing of Andre Villas-Boaswill tested to the limit if Chelsea fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League

Jamie Holland

CHELSEA yesterday denied claims that owner Roman Abramovich held showdown talks with manager Andre Villas-Boas before the club's breathtaking 3-3 draw with Manchester United last Sunday.

The Blues confirmed Abramovich spoke to Villas-Boas during a rare visit to the club's training ground on Saturday before attending the game at Stamford Bridge.

But they insist the Russian billionaire remains fully behind the 34-year-old's project, following a report he had become frustrated with results under the Portuguese.

A spokesman said: “Roman likes to get down to Cobham and watch training whenever he can. “He was able to visit on Saturday and he and Andre had a good chat after the training session, which is what he normally does when he gets time to go down there.”

It is thought Saturday was the first time Abramovich had watched Chelsea train this season, with the 45-year-old's focus having been on his high-profile court case with former associate Boris Berezovsky.

He spent 35 minutes casting his eye over the session before spending another 20 speaking with Villas-Boas. He also spent half an hour talking to players in the dressing-room after Sunday’s game, having seen them lose a three-goal lead.

The match provided just the kind of entertainment Abramovich is believed to demand, but represented more points lost from a winning position by the Blues at home this season.

Patience is not Abramovich’s forte – he has sacked almost every manager who has failed to win the title during his nine years as owner.

However, the Russian reportedly accepts that overhauling a side and style determined by former manager Jose Mourinho will take time, although failure to qualify for the Champions League may test his resolve.

Villas-Boas has repeatedly asserted that he will be allowed to see out the three-year contract he signed last summer when he arrived at Stamford Bridge.

CRITICISM

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, will not face a disciplinary charge over his criticism of linesman Darren Cann after Sunday's match. Ferguson's joy at seeing his team come back from 3-0 down was tempered to an extent by his anger at Cann's decision not to flag for a foul by Gary Cahill on Danny Welbeck after the Red Devils striker raced through in the first half.

The United boss thought Cahill, who was making his Chelsea debut, should have been sent off as he was the last man, and launched an angry tirade against Cann after the match.

“They should've had a man sent off, but there was nothing – no decision,” Ferguson said. “ That linesman (Cann), has given a penalty kick against us from 40 yards away last year against Liverpool, this year against Arsenal – and he can't see that? He is all too happy to flag at Old Trafford for penalty kicks.”

It is understood the FA ruled yesterday that the Scot was within his rights to criticise Cann, and that he did not question the assistant referee's integrity with his comments.

Meanwhile, Michael Carrick believes that Manchester United's fightback against Chelsea will have a psychological impact on the title race by “denting” the morale of their rivals at the top of the Premier League.

With long-term league leaders Manchester City losing at Everton last Tuesday, United are now just two points behind Roberto Mancini's team, who they face at the Etihad Stadium in a potential title-decider on April 28.

And Carrick insists the late comeback at Chelsea will have had as much impact in the dressing-rooms of their closest challengers as it did at Old Trafford.

“I think other teams who were watching that and seeing us go 3-0 down would have been thinking what a good afternoon it's been for them,” said Carrick.

“Then for us to come back in the manner we did might give them a little dent and a boost for us.”

ABILITY

United's ability to turn a seemingly inevitable defeat into a draw was largely based on Wayne Rooney's two successful penalties in the second half. Rooney missed his last two penalties against City and Bolton but, having put in some practice in training, he had no intention of relinquishing spot-kick responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Phil Dowd has been appointed as referee for United's Old Trafford clash with Liverpool on Saturday.

The Staffordshire official was at the centre of controversy when he took charge of United's 3-1 defeat at Anfield in March 2011 after failing to dismiss Liverpool's Jamie Carragher for a late challenge on Nani.

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