Cartoon villain Luiz: I was smirking at Sideshow Bob jibes
David Luiz has told friends that his smile after going down under Rafael da Silva's challenge at Old Trafford on Sunday was because Manchester United fans were mocking him over his nickname 'Sideshow Bob'.
Alex Ferguson reacted with anger at Luiz's part in Rafael's sending-off, accusing the Chelsea defender of rolling "like a dying swan" and then pointing out that he was grinning. "That is bad," Ferguson said. "What kind of professional is that?"
Ferguson also complained that Rafael had been provoked by Luiz's use of the elbow. Although Luiz has not disputed that he was smiling after falling to the ground, he has said it was in front of a baying collection of United fans.
Luiz's flamboyant style and flowing curly hair has prompted the moniker 'Sideshow Bob' after the character from 'The Simpsons' and he could apparently hear that nickname, as well as some expletives, from supporters.
Assistant referee Sian Massey did immediately flag for the Rafael challenge, with referee Howard Webb then showing a red card. Neither Massey nor Webb felt that Luiz had gone too far with his use of the elbow but he clearly frustrated Rafael while trying to shield the ball.
There is a feeling around Chelsea that Ferguson was trying to deflect attention from Rafael's indiscipline, and manager Rafael Benitez said he was "not interested" in discussing the issue.
For Benitez and Chelsea, the 1-0 victory was a massive result in the context of the race for a top-four Premier League finish. Should they beat Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, only a freak series of results would deny them a place in the Champions League next season.
Tottenham's need is now greater and only a victory will keep their top-four destiny in their own hands. Juan Mata, who was brought to Chelsea in 2011 under Andre Villas-Boas, likened the game to a cup final and said that he expected his former manager to receive a warm welcome on his first trip back to Stamford Bridge since being sacked 14 months ago.
"We are three teams fighting for two positions – if we win we will be almost for sure in the Champions League," Mata said. "If we are able to win the Europa League, and if we finish third in the Premier League, I think it will be a great season for us."
There was also praise from Mata for both Gareth Bale and Villas-Boas. "For me Gareth is, right now, one of the best in the world," Mata said. "Not just in England, not just in Europe – in the world. He is able to decide a game as he did on Saturday."
Asked what sort of reception he expected Villas-Boas to get, Mata said: "I think a nice one, because he tried his best for the club, and for me, he was the man I came with. He gave me confidence, helped me to settle down and, yes, I think he is a great manager and a very great person as well."
Villas-Boas yesterday again acknowledged that he had made mistakes during his eight months at Chelsea but believes he will return to Stamford Bridge as a better manager.
"The experiences (of managing Chelsea and Spurs) are different and I learned a great lesson from last year," Villas-Boas said. "There are things I do dramatically different and things that I do exactly the same because you still have to stay true to your principles.
"The Chelsea experience allowed me to see things in a different way and helped me address the mistakes I made; that always allows you to develop. It becomes easier when the players are willing to commit to your ideas, they need to be able to take something from, and enjoy, learning new things."
Chelsea are also now close to confirming the signing of 22-year-old Germany forward Andre Schurrle, with his club, Bayer Lerverkusen, saying yesterday that they thought a pre-contract deal had been agreed by the player. (© Daily Telegraph, London)