Those would be the sweetest three points that Jose Mourinho have won in his short Manchester United career so far. United have managed to beat the table leaders Chelsea with a comfortable margin of 2-0 with goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera. It was not just the victory but the way in which it came that makes it more special. Mourinho’s team selection got a large amount of flak from the United fans on the social media but it was the manager who had the last laugh. It was a tactical master stroke from the Portuguese so much so that his counterpart was lost for ideas. The former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has urged Conte’s men to forget about tonight and focus on the title charge.
“Everything seemed to drop for Manchester United, but that wasn’t luck they were sharper than Chelsea. Chelsea need to wipe this out of their memory, they played Arsenal earlier in the season and then kicked on after a similar performance. But it’s game on now, because it’s only four points.”
“I think we have had very good performances [at Old Trafford]. Arsenal here, Tottenham here, we played really well, but today was a special performance because it’s also a special opponent. The leader, the way they play and I think we played really well, very solid performance.”
“I don’t feel extra joy at beating Chelsea – we beat the leader. It doesn’t matter if the leader is Chelsea or another – we beat them convincingly. Nobody can doubt our credit to win the game.”
“I don’t know to say, but different teams, different players, maybe it’s difficult for some managers to find Ander Herrera to do the job that he did today, maybe it’s difficult for some managers to find a Matteo Darmian to play the role he played.”
“Normally you win the title if you are 22 matches unbeaten and we are struggling to finish top four!“Why? Everybody knows why because we lost too many points at home, it’s normal away from home, a couple of defeats, a couple of draws, but at home we drew too many matches and we are paying the price of it.”
“But it’s a great feeling to know that it’s difficult for us to lose a match and people fight until the end. We scored here last minute against Everton, against Liverpool, we scored at Stoke last minute, the people fights hard.”
HE continued to talk about how his team needs some signings in the summer but at the same time how he has an excellent group to work with.
“We need a little bit more and different qualities in some positions for next season to make the squad stronger but in terms of character and the human side of the group I have one of the best groups ever.”
As with every game, this one had its fair share of controversy, biggest of them all being Herrera’s possible handball during the play which led to the goal. The man of the match for the game, however, begs to differ
“I didn’t want to touch the ball with the hand. I was running with my hand next to my body. If your hand is in a natural position it is not a handball.”
He also thought that the performance was close to perfect which was made more special as it also involved a goal for him which he was long waiting for.
“There are always some things to improve, but it was almost perfect. They didn’t have any chances. I have been looking for a goal for a long time. Today I was a bit lucky, but I think we deserved this.”
While Marcus Rashford, who did exceedingly well today, preferred to focus on the discipline and importance of team play.
“Today took a lot of discipline to carry out the game plan and actions.
“It’s not so much stepping up to the plate in Ibrahimovic’s absence, everyone is together and we grafted to put the work in to get the result.
“It was a clever pass from Herrera, we made eye contact and he put the ball exactly where I want it. It’s something we need in this team.”
The manager also mentioned that this was, in fact, the team he wanted to play and not the one he “had” to play.
“Maybe we didn’t ‘rest’ players ahead of Thursday, we just chose the team we thought was the best team.”
Also, he thought the tactics tonight were similar to the one in the FA Cup quarter-final.
“We went to Stamford Bridge in the cup with same tactics, the game was totally controlled with 11 players, only the decision that made us play with 10 men for the second half and 10 minutes in the first half, gave Chelsea a chance to be dominant.”
But most important of all, Mourinho was happy for his lads who gave their heart and soul in the game today. There have been cases these past few seasons where one could have faulted players for their desire to put in a performance but not today. Each and every one of them gave their 100%.
“I think everyone did what they had to do. Everybody fought really hard. Bailly and Rojo, I think they deserve a special mention because they have played in absolutely every game, non-stop, since the injuries of Smalling and Jones. But I am really happy with the team and the results, because the Manchester City and Liverpool results left us in the position of needing to win. Not even a draw would be a good result for us, so I am really happy for the boys and for us because we keep two windows open to try to play Champions League football.”
That’s one of the tough games in the bag. United have quite a few left which needs to be put to bed if they wish to qualify for the Champions League through the league standings. But that will be clear in days to come. It is now over to the home leg of the quarter finals of Europa League and Mourinho would want to kill that tie as early as possible. If they could go through, with this little surge in the momentum and the semi-final place in Europa League, Mourinho will fancy his chances to make it to the Champions League next year. But these are pretty big IF’s so let’s hold the horses for now.