Don’t ask me why, since I have little time for either club, but I watched Chelsea ‘entertain’ Manchester United this afternoon. Given that so many United fans hail from the capital, it must have felt a bit like a local derby. Unlike Manchester City’s drab, soulless draw at home to Southampton, played out in a funereal atmosphere, this felt a lot better.
In case we hadn’t noticed, this game represented the return of Jose Mourinho to the club that sacked him a year ago. Having spent a large fortune last summer, most of it on Paul Pogba, you might have been forgiven for feeling that this season might see a new Mourinho at a club which, no matter how you might feel about it, has a reputation of playing strong, attacking football. United have a special history. The club of Duncan Edwards, Denis Law, George Best, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and, well, the list goes on forever. How on earth does Mourinho fit in with all that?
The answer of course is that he doesn’t. Anyone who watched United strangle the life out of the Liverpool game at Anfield last week will have known that. The plan, as it always is with Mourinho, is to park the bus. Unfortunately, he only took a minibus to Stamford Bridge today. How on earth does the woeful Marouane Fellaini get picked for the team? His only meaningful contribution today was to be the victim of an X Rated foul by David Luiz. Other than his lumbering physical presence, I am at a loss to understand what he gives the team. Danny Blind, Chris Smalling are mediocrity exemplified. Mourinho’s United are a powerful, direct physical team, and this is not the United of Paul Scholes.
United started with a back six for goodness sake, so we have a fair idea what they came for. The still classy remnants of Ibrahimovic alongside the young and still raw Rashford simply didn’t work, there is no Keane, Robson or Scholes to run the midfield (Pogba looks nearer a £90k player than a £90m one at the moment), the defence looks thrown together and only the goalkeeper looks world class. This is because he is.
Mourinho may still come back from this. From a distance, he looks a busted flush, a monstrous ego with a tired view of how the game is played. His team may have scraped a draw at Anfield last Monday, but his tactics were nearer Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon than Ferguson. Yesterday, it was hard to discern any tactics or strategy at all, other than parking the double decker.
Put simply, United were terrible. They may make a fool of me and go on to win the league because I may be totally wrong. But sitting in my living room, they looked a team bumping along, if not at the bottom then around Europe Cup qualifying places.
Mourinho comes across as what we in football call a complete twat, a parody of the Special One he once told he was. As things stand, his appointment appears to be another dud from the Glazers who, it appears, may have been found out now that Sir Alex is no longer in charge. Let’s hope so.