30 seconds. That’s how long it took Chelsea to open the scoring in an enthralling match at the bridge, Pedro capitalizing on calamitous defending from the united defenders to open the floodgates. Much was made of Jose Mourinho’s homecoming to the club he had spent the most successful part of his career and for this many had actually forgotten that the pitch is where the real talk happens in football.
This performance from the blues changed a lot of things. It tilted the spotlight from Josemuch heralded ‘reunion’ with his former club. It has significantly made Chelsea title contenders once again and finally, it has assured the fans that the clones who paraded themselves in disguise as Chelsea players last season, is gone. Can I say it was a perfect display? Undoubtedly, it was.
This was Chelsea like you’ve never seen before. It was brutal, dominant and Antonio Conte was at the heart of it all. The Italian stallion will not be talked about – like he deserves – after this match, but let it be known to you that he orchestrated everything we saw at the bridge. The intense double training sessions are paying off – just look at how the Chelsea players chased their opposition tirelessly all around the pitch. Jurgen Klopp would have been so proud.
United on the other hand, were undone by poor selection and too many individual error. I don’t know why Marcos Rashford – a kid who made his sensational breakthrough playing from the centre – is being played on the flanks. The England international cut a dejected figure during the encounter and at a point even appeared to be playing as a full-back! The entire build-up play lacked purpose and a decisive cutting edge. Zlatan was criminally isolated and Pogba easily outmuscled in the midfield battle.
If you are among the elite club who thinks the latter has been unfairly criticized but after this match, is beginning to think ‘ok, you can’t keep being bad for this long’, then you’re not alone. This isn’t the first time the Frenchman has played in England and he was obviously aware of the kind of pressure being the world’s most expensive player would bring before he signed. His performances thus far, is unacceptable.
At the final whistle, Mourinho blew furiously (he speaks Italian when angry) into the ear of the Chelsea manager. Apparently, the Portuguese wasn’t impressed with Conte winding up the crowd at 4-0, it was ‘humiliating’. This coming from a man who has made throat-slicing gestures to opposition fans, beat furiously on his heart after ending a team’s title hopes and instructed his players to take off their shirts and flex muscles when they score. Jose has never been one to take losing very well but his comments – translated by the Italian interpreter’s in the stadium – to Conte is simply pathetic.
The win makes it three wins on a bounce for the West London outfit. Ngolo Kante also grabbed his first premier league goal of the season. Good day at the office.
Here are the individual player ratings from the match. ( On a PH scale, it’s an acidic team united has got there)
THIBAUT COURTOIS 7: Three clean sheets in a row. He’d be buzzing with this new set-up from the team. Although the jury is still out on whether he has become decent again, he certainly helped his cause with two necessary saves.
CESAR AZPILICUETA 7.5: At home on the right – his favored side of the pitch. His reading of the game is exceptional. Made some useful runs forward too.
DAVID LUIZ 7: Clattered into the knee of Maroune Fellaini and could/should have been sent-off by Atkinson. Did a sublime job with Ibrahimovich and as always, made impact going forward.
GARY CAHILL © 7.5: Showed good composure to rifle into the net for the second goal. Didn’t look indecisive at all. Matured display from the captain.
MARCOS ALONSO 6.5: Has been unspectacularly brilliant since his breakthrough into the first team. His ball over the top for Pedro’s goal was the crown of his performance.
VICTOR MOSES 7: Where you been all my life, Victor. What a revelation he’s been for Antonio Conte’s side. The Nigerian is both effective offensively and defensively. Energy bar.
NGOLO KANTE 8: He’s here. he’s there. He’s everywhere – Ngolo kante. Ngolo kante. Consistent performer for the blues. The little Frenchman isn’t famed for his goal-scoring ability but what a goal that was. Smalling filtered into no man’s land and paid.
NEMANJA MATIC 7: He, more than Kante, kept Pogba quiet. Never thought the day would come when I’d say this but the Serbian midfield enforcer is looking close to his best.
PEDRO 7: He wasn’t a man fast with no sense on the day, he was a man fast and very impressive. Round off De gea to open the scoring.
EDEN HAZARD 9: If the Belgian was out to prove a point to his former manager, he did so superbly. His breathtaking ability is a joy to watch. Broke the defense for his goal.
DIEGO COSTA 7.5: Admit it or not, this is one of the most lethal striker the premier league has seen. His series with opposition defenders has been cut-back a little this season and the returns have been goals, goals, goals. Hardworking, industrious and selfless performance.
SUBS: TREVOR CHALOBAH 6: The tempo of the game had slowed by the time he came on but he fit in right away. Struck a decent long-range shot too.
WILLIAN: Little time for impact but he did make a couple of familiar direct running.
MICHY BATSHUAYI: No time for impact
MANAGER: Usual emotional self on the touch-line. The Stamford bridge faithful are loving him.
DAVID DE GEA 5.5: Rare mistake from the premier league’s best goalkeeper to concede the first goal. He resumed normal duties with a string of saves to keep the score-line decent.
ANTONIO VALENCIA 5.5: Was caught out of position more often that not during the first half blitz. Lead a few united attacks from the right though.
ERIC BAILLY 6: if he hadn’t pulled out with an injury, you’d wonder if the Cote d’ivoire international would have lasted the entirety of the match. He was booked for a foul on Costa and continued swimming dangerous waters until he went-off. Despite an uneasy performance, he looked more composed than the rest of the united back-line
CHRIS SMALLING © 5: Miserable day for the united captain. Lost Pedro for the first goal, and ridiculed by Kante for the forth. Powerless to chelsea’s dominance.
DALEY BLIND 4: One of the poorest united performers. The versatile defender was out of sorts on the left hand side before switching to the centre. Dismal.
ANDER HERRERA 5.5: A bright spark in the united team. By the end of the first half, Herrera alone had made more tackles than the entire team. Really needed help.
MAROUNE FELLAINI 4.5: Whatever the Belgian is doing to Jose that he keeps starting him, he better keep it up. Doesn’t have the quality to play for Manchester united. Subbed off at half-time.
JESSE LINGARD 5: Couldn’t quite kick off from where he left against Fenebarce. The England international has potential but most do more in order to survive. Did pull a good save from Courtois later on.
PAUL POGBA 4: I wouldn’t want to be him right now. This performance was a new low for the mega bucks man. He played the no 10 role in the first half and created zero chances. Dropped deeper into the midfield when Mata came on. His late tackle on Matic – which saw him receive a yellow – summed up his day. ‘What a waste of money’, the Chelsea fans sang with all their might.
MARCOS RASHFORD 6: Frustrating afternoon for the youngster. All his efforts to inspire his team-mates proved futile. Showed his displeasure at Fellaini after the Belgian refused to stretch on to a pass. He is a really impressive player but will need to start up-front if united are to get goals out of him.
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVICH 5: His brute-style and aerial prowess will always be a threat for opponents. Had two chances to get on the score-sheet and flunked. In his defense, it was some frugal service from the united midfield on the day.
SUBS: JUAN MATA 5: United controlled reasonable possession when he came on, although, we don’t know how much Chelsea stepping their foot off the gas contributed to that. Showed class and should have played from the start.
MARCOS ROJO: Came on for Eric bailly and switched to left-back. The assault was already winding down when he came on but he forced a brilliant save out of Courtois with a long-range effort.
ANTHONY MARTIAL: No time for impact.
MANAGER: Devastating home-coming for Jose Mourinho. He got his selections all wrong and looked confused. Questions will be raised.
United played a poor game but nothing can take away the beauty of what Conte and his wards put on show in London. They’ve ‘won the war, and not the battle’ and there’s still a lot of games but sitting just one point atop the league summit, Chelsea can get excited. Great time to be a fan of football.
Article By: Jibril Baba, @Jibril__baba