Devils stuck in re­verse

> Mour­inho has in­her­ited a team which can­not de­fend prop­erly or at­tack with in­tent

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY MARK OG­DEN

AW­FUL, SHAM­BOLIC, clue­less and hu­mil­i­ated, but def­i­nitely not spe­cial. Jose Mour­inho, Chelsea’s “Spe­cial One”, is look­ing very or­di­nary at Manch­ester United, but it took a 4-0 ham­mer­ing against his old team at Stam­ford Bridge to ex­pose the mag­ni­tude of the job he now has on his hands at Old Traf­ford.

By the end of his first re­turn to Chelsea with United, the Stam­ford Bridge crowd were sar­cas­ti­cally chant­ing Mour­inho’s name and giv­ing out “oles” 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.

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

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.

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 Matthew Harding, the for­mer Chelsea di­rec­tor, 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.

He 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 game­plan, 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.

United, with the in­jured Wayne Rooney also not mak­ing the squad, at­tempted to re­spond quickly af­ter Pe­dro’s opener, but Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic saw a shot blocked by David Luiz be­fore he headed an­other chance over the bar from six yards.

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 and the ball dropped to Cahill, who volleyed home from six yards.

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 £89 mil­lion (RM445m) 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.

Kante, sup­pos­edly a de­stroyer, dis­played true flair by danc­ing around the hope­less Smalling be­fore guid­ing the ball past De Gea.

Chelsea, hav­ing wob­bled with heavy 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. – The In­de­pen­dent

Chelsea de­fender Gary Cahill (top) jumps onto the hud­dle to join the cel­e­brates af­ter N’Golo Kante scored their fourth goal dur­ing yes­ter­day’s EPL match against Manch­ester United. – AFPPIX

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