The Big Match

Truly a return to forget for Jose Mourinho as Chelsea destroy Man United

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill scoring his team's second goal via a deflection off Daley Blind. Pedro, Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante also netted to hand United manager Jose Mourinho his heaviest defeat in the Premier League.
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill scoring his team's second goal via a deflection off Daley Blind. Pedro, Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante also netted to hand United manager Jose Mourinho his heaviest defeat in the Premier League.PHOTO: REUTERS

Blues net within 30sec as slew of defensive errors see Mourinho's men mauled in London

Chelsea 4

Manchester United 0

LONDON • Jose Mourinho emerged from the tunnel almost unnoticed, if the crowd noise was anything to go by yesterday.

But the Stamford Bridge faithful were at full voice almost immediately after kick-off.

They were not welcoming their former manager on his return to a ground where he had performed heroics with Chelsea during his two stints at the London football club.

They were cheering for their side who were 1-0 up against Manchester United after just 30 seconds.

It looked like a nothing ball forward from Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso on the halfway line, a speculative clip into space, but the alert Pedro scooted behind Daley Blind and Chris Smalling to go through on goal.

United goalkeeper David de Gea came a long way out of his box, and Pedro zoomed round him with his first touch before scoring with his left foot.

 
 

It was an extraordinary start from Chelsea - with the goal the fastest in the Premier League this season - but it was clearly poor defending from Mourinho's men who appeared nervous.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic twice went close to scoring soon after as the 3,000 or so travelling fans launched into a rendition of "Mourinho's red and white army" in a bid to rouse United. The manager himself stood unmoved in the technical area, his hands plunged in the pockets of his bomber jacket, stunned by the proceedings.

It was soon to get worse for the Portuguese as Gary Cahill thumped home in the 21st minute to double the hosts' lead. This time, it was a mistake by Smalling, who stood gawping as an outswinging corner was flicked on at the near post. It hit Ander Herrera before bouncing towards the six-yard line. Cahill contorted his body to smash the ball through Blind on the line.

Chelsea had more chances to score in the first half as United looked ragged at times. United's build-up play was also ponderous.

Chelsea, by contrast, crackled with menace through the movement of Eden Hazard and Pedro.

In the second half, the tempo of the match slowed down slightly with Chelsea having a two-goal lead and United struggling to break down the Blues' stubborn defence.

But, just when United looked the more likely to score the next goal, Hazard broke Mourinho's heart with a third strike for the hosts on 62 minutes. The Belgian slowed the play down on the left before giving the ball back to N'Golo Kante, who squared it to Nemanja Matic.

The Serbian midfielder then played a superb first-time pass to Hazard, who shifted the ball inside Smalling and drove it across de Gea into the corner.

Eight minutes later, the humiliation was complete for Mourinho as Kante was literally allowed to walk the ball into the United goal with Paul Pogba and Herrera failing to mark him.

At 0-4 down, there was no way back for United as Antonio Conte's men held firm to collect three valuable points.

United lost the game in midfield where Matic and Kante were outstanding for Chelsea. Mourinho needed Pogba to turn up, but that did not happen. Neither did Juan Mata make an impact after coming on as a half-time substitute.

So, the top of the Premier League table is spandex-tight. The top five are separated by just a point.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Truly a return to forget'. Print Edition | Subscribe