Friday 23 March 2018

Paul Pogba just looked lost - Five things we learned from Chelsea's annihilation of United

Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba dejected after Chelsea scored their second goal
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba dejected after Chelsea scored their second goal

Miguel Delaney

Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was beaten 4-0 on his return to Stamford Bridge with Manchester United on Sunday. Here, we look at five things that can be gleaned from today's drubbing.

1. Mourinho repeating the same errors from his last job

It took a return home to re-emphasise that Jose Mourinho’s problems from last season have not gone away, or been fixed. They might have even got worse, after what was his worst ever Premier League defeat.

What was so concerning was that there were so many elements reminiscent of the horror 2015-16 campaign at Chelsea, right down to the absence of an attacking plan and the meek shapeless defending.

There wasn’t a second of this game when United weren’t inferior to Antonio Conte’s side, and it in fact took only 30 seconds for Pedro to give Chelsea the lead. Once that happened, United had nothing.

It was as if there entire game plan was based on not conceding and trying to nick it. That was all too easily rumbled, and made for a very difficult homecoming for Mourinho.

2. Have you ever seen Eden Hazard as happy to score?

After all the intrigue of last season, and debate about which Chelsea players had turned against Mourinho, there was a lot of evidence to pore over at Stamford Bridge.

So many players seemed to relish the occasion, and the opportunity to get one over their former boss. Eden Hazard celebrated his goal with conspicuous levels of joy, Pedro put real vigour into ever move, and Nemanja Matic looked back to his best.

No-one, however, seemed to enjoy it as much as a man that Mourinho actually sold early on. David Luiz’s response to N’Golo Kante’s goal - the strike that transformed this from a bad beating to a humiliation - was utterly raucous. The talk before this game was that Mourinho wanted to prove a point at Stamford Bridge. His former players evidently wanted to more.

3. Things are starting to click for Conte

Chelsea played with more than the desire for revenge, though. They also had an intelligent design, and a proper plan. That was one big difference between the teams even beyond the application.

While United’s attacks were so aimless and involved little more than punting and running, there was real co-ordination to everything they did. Conte seems to have found a formation that fits this team with his three at the back, and it led to a four-goal onslaught.

It also seemed the type of innovation that is now beyond Mourinho, and further bolsters the growing argument that he is past his best, and no longer at the elite end of the game.

4. The United players were atrocious

On what was one of Mourinho’s worst ever days as a manager, it sums it up that it was hard to pick out a worst performer.

So many were dismal, and the fact that substitute Juan Mata slipped up for the third goal only added another layer to a game of so many strands, since he was another player that Mourinho got rid of at Chelsea.

It was players he brought to Old Trafford, though, who stood out in terms of ineptitude at Stamford Bridge. Paul Pogba seemed to be playing without any discernible position, and just looked lost.

And what, meanwhile, was Zlatan Ibrahimovic doing? Other than missing United’s one big chance, not a whole lot. The early days of the season, when he was free scoring and seemed to have restored United’s assurance, seem a long time ago now.

5. Mourinho's start has been worse than David Moyes'

There were so many bad moments in this match for United, and the bald 4-0 scoreline is galling, but some other numbers make it even more concerning.

Mourinho has now only won one in six in the league. That is not just a continuation of last season’s figures at Chelsea. It is reminiscent of David Moyes.

In fact, with four defeats and just eight wins in 14 games, his start at United has actually been worse than Alex Ferguson’s initial replacement. That emphasises that Mourinho’s problems may only be beginning.

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