?Chelsea’s clash against Manchester United was always going to interesting, with the game promising as much rich narrative as a George Orwell novel: José Mourinho and other former Blues men returning to Stamford Bridge; Chelsea’s resurgence under Maurizio Sarri, and United’s recent struggles all promised to produce a captivating ninety minutes of football.
Well, the game was certainly no disappointment, with the two sides playing out an enthralling 2-2 draw – with Chelsea securing a point with a dramatic late equaliser, and Mourinho getting embroiled in a scuffle after being enraged by a member of Sarri’s staff. While it’s still early in the season, the game provided a real insight into the title hopes of both sides.
Despite the scenes of jubilation, ?Chelsea will undoubtedly see Saturday as two points lost rather than one gained, and a real missed opportunity to lay down a market in the title race. Having been 1-0 up at half-time, the Blues should have pressed home their advantage and seen the game home, but their lack of clinical finishing cost them dearly.
Under Sarri, Chelsea’s style of football has undoubtably improved, and we must remember that they’re still unbeaten. However, they still look inferior to the likes of ?Manchester City and ?Liverpool, whose mega-spending in the summer saw them expand their already star-packed sides into formidable, talent-rich units running deeper than the Mariana Trench.
The Blues are a little threadbare beyond their starting eleven, and the likes of David Luiz and Álvaro Morata – regular starters in key positions – simply don’t have the consistency needed to mount a strong challenge for the title. However, with Eden Hazard in the form of his life, it would be unwise to rule the Blues out of contention for the crown this season.
Mourinho responded to the taunts of some Chelsea fans with a hand gesture of his own at the final whistle – a defiant three fingers reminding them of his golden years at the helm of the club. The Portuguese Man o’ War is rapidly severing his ties with the Blues faithful, and could well see the club who once adored him come back to haunt him by winning the league title again.
?United are in a tricky spot; there’s no denying it. With the press baying for Mourinho’s blood and the side winning just once in their last six matches, the pressure is on for the team to claw their way out of a rut. Perhaps mindful of the lack of worthy replacements at this stage of the season, the United owners have remained patient with Mourinho – but everyone has their limit.
However, despite the result, there were some real positive points for Red Devils fans to hold on to after Saturday’s agonising late drama. ?Anthony Martial, despite appearing keen on an Old Trafford exit, put in a stunning second half performance on Saturday. The Frenchman has struggled for game time under Mourinho, but finally seems to have won his boss over.
The fighting spirit shown by United is also clear to see. In a similar fashion to their comeback against ?Newcastle United in their previous league outing, the Red Devils responded admirably to their setback against the Blues – pressing and harrying, causing Sarri’s defence all manner of problems as they pushed forward with guts and determination.
Traditionally, United are slow starters in the league. We must remember that the season is just nine games deep, and Mourinho’s side have ample time to wrestle their way back into title contention. However, it could be argued that their last two results have merely papered over the cracks, and that with another defeat the media circus around the club will resume with gusto.
On balance, Chelsea look the side more likely to challenge City and Liverpool for the title. While Sarri’s squad aren’t as strong as the aforementioned sides – or United’s – they look a more convincing unit than United. Mourinho’s men still look capable of imploding at any given moment, and will need to find stability before they can be considered as real contenders again.
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