Manchester United’s brilliance was on display against league leaders Chelsea, Sunday, as Jose Mourinho’s squad put in a vintage “Manchester United” display.
After arguably the best performance since Sir Alex Ferguson paced up and down the touch-line at Old Trafford, United still find themselves sitting in fifth, battling to finish in the top four and secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.
After a display that made Chelsea look more like a team battling relegation rather than one trying to hold off Tottenham for the Premier League title, you can forgive United fans for liking their chances at finishing in the top four.
Mourinho’s squad put in a master class display, firing on all cylinders. As everything clicked, finally.
Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard were relentless in the attack.
Ander Herrera completely shut down arguably the Premier League’s best player in Eden Hazard, while his through ball of the season and deflected shot secured three points for United.
Paul Pogba made critics forget about his price tag, even if only for one game, while his fellow midfield partner Marouane Fellaini looked more competent and comfortable in his position than he has all season.
Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, and Matteo Darmian held Chelsea to zero shots on target for the first time since 2007, while not allowing a completed pass inside United’s own penalty area, not one. This meant that goalkeeper David De Gea’s most strenuous part of the day had to have come before the match while strapping on his gloves and tying his boots.
This wasn’t against Sunderland, or Middlesbrough or any other relegation candidate; this was against league leaders Chelsea. Mourinho’s old team. The last one to defeat United in the league, 21 games prior, where United had suffered a humbling 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
This was revenge, revenge for “Judas,” revenge for a more than questionable red card that saw United crash out of the FA Cup.
This match also served as a statement.
This is what happens on a day where everything finally clicks for United. When every shot isn’t deflecting off the post when the opposing goalie doesn’t have the game of his life when United proved they could be clinical.
Maybe most of all this proves to Mourinho’s players, and his critics, that he still has the “IT” factor. The factor that earned him the nicknames “The Special One,” and “Judas.”
United fans have to be wondering where this has been all season.
Where was this attacking prowess when teams like Hull City, Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion visited Old Trafford, all taking a point back home.
If United were only able to replicate Sunday’s performances in past home games this match may have had title implications.
For now, United will use this victory as a warning to Premier League teams that they do indeed have what it takes to beat the best. And after almost a full year, Jose Mourinho’s squad could finally be putting it all together.
Premier League teams will worry that Sunday’s win may be a stepping stone on United’s way back to the pinnacle of world soccer. And on a day that cameras caught Mourinho repeatedly pointing to the club’s crest as he left the field, United fans will have been doing the same all around the world, whether it be in the local pub, at Old Trafford or in the living room.