Football: Mourinho’s humiliating return to Stamford Bridge
“You’re not special any more!” That’s what the Chelsea fans sang at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, taunting former Chelsea manager José Mourinho as their team hammered his Manchester United side 4-0, said Henry Winter in The Times. And they were right. At the very ground where the manager experienced some of his “most cherished moments”, he suffered his heaviest Premier League defeat. From first minute to last, Chelsea were “far the superior side”; United were truly “abject”, a disgrace to the “famous red shirts” on their chests. But Mourinho couldn’t just blame his players’ haplessness: it was his mistakes, as much as theirs, that led the team astray. As former Chelsea striker Eiður Guðjohnsen tweeted afterwards, “José still knows how to get the best out of Chelsea.” Mourinho was meant to turn this ailing team around, said Paul Hayward in The Daily Telegraph. When he took over in the summer, the club hoped his “tactical nous and authority” would put an end to the mistakes made since Alex Ferguson’s departure. But that has turned out to be far more difficult than anyone expected. Despite forking out £145m, Mourinho has failed to make any real difference in the areas that count: results, team spirit, entertainment value. Against Chelsea, United resembled “a rabble without a cause”, said Paul Doyle in The Observer. Slow and “ragged”, many players didn’t seem to know what they were supposed to be doing. The defence was appalling; Paul Pogba, the midfielder signed for a world-record £89m, looked like “an expensive passenger that United can’t afford to keep carrying”. Yet the biggest worry is Mourinho himself, said Daniel Taylor in the same paper. He has lost his old strut, his “air of insouciance”. A year after he was sacked by Chelsea, he still appears traumatised: he can barely bring himself to “mention his old club by name”. The Blues are having no such trouble moving on, said Matt Barlow in the Daily Mail. Their manager, Antonio Conte, is firmly in control: on Sunday, he directed every pass “with his ceaseless barrage of instructions, like a hyperactive Italian traffic cop”. He has revitalised the players who languished last season – particularly Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Yet Conte hasn’t always looked so impressive, said Jonathan Liew in The Sunday Telegraph. When his side lost 3-0 to Arsenal last month, he was even tipped for the sack. But since switching to 3-4-3 during that game, the Italian has stuck with the formation – and been rewarded with three wins and nine goals in three matches. Much deployed in fantasy football, 3-4-3 is rarely seen at the game’s top level. But by allowing Hazard to stay forward, providing cover for the wing-backs and creating a “more effective pressing unit”, it is proving ideal for Chelsea.