Manchester United v Chelsea: match report

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Jose Mourinho produced a tactical masterclass. His side were smarter, sharper and more ruthless than their opponents in every department and showed fans and critics alike what he can do when the big matches roll round. The game in question here, though, was Chelsea’s 3-1 destruction of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United almost 12 years ago. On that day Mourinho enhanced his reputation further as Chelsea marched towards a record-breaking triumph in the Premier League.

 

12 years is a lifetime in football and this time, Mourinho seems like he is rebuilding his once unquestionable reputation. The Portuguese managed his best Man United game yet as he got the better of rival Antonio Conte in a feisty encounter. Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera got the goals in what turned out to be a convincing 2-0 victory at Old Trafford and perhaps gives new life to their top four ambitions as well as the title race.

 

The Special One sprung surprises on Easter Sunday choosing to leave star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench and lining up in a 4-2-2 set-up with Rashford and Jese Lingard up front. Ander Herrera was tasked with marrying himself to Eden Hazard – flashbacks of the F.A. Cup tie where the Spaniard was given his marching orders after a late challenge on the Belgian may have had Man United fans worried. Not so this time as the tenacious midfielder stuck to his task diligently and frustrated the Chelsea talisman in an all-action man of the match performance.

 

Mourinho’s men flew out of the traps at Old Trafford with the pace and understanding between Rashford and Lingard causing problems for the Chelsea back three. The game was not even ten minutes old when Herrera stole possession – questionably as big shouts for handball appeared to be justified – before sliding an excellent ball in behind for Rashford to chance and calmly finish. A goal move unable to materialise, perhaps, if Ibrahimovic was spearheading the attack.

 

Diego Costa, often the subject of many subplots throughout Mourinho’s time at Chelsea, yet has seemed more measured under Conte, showed his unsavoury side yet again. The brutish Spanish striker found himself embroiled in battles with United’s defensive duo Marcus Rojo and Eric Bailly. His frustrations earned him a yellow card after a late challenge on Pogba.

 

Chelsea looked unusually unfocused, drawn into Manchester United’s clever mind games and acts of street-smarts. The focus was so much lacking that Gary Cahill was more attentive in hauling Lingard up from the ground during the build up to Herrera doubling United’s advantage.

 

It took Chelsea 45 minutes to muster their first effort on goal albeit a frustrated lash from Costa.

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Whatever Conte’s half time message was to his flat Chelsea side at the forefront of it must have been not to concede another goal early in the second half. However, some three minutes into the second period they found themselves further behind. Chelsea failed to clear their lines once more and Ashley Young, who was given the captain’s armband for the occasion, drove into the Chelsea penalty area before another failed clearance fell to Herrera. The Spaniard, the beneficiary of two slices of good fortune after his alleged handball in the first half for his assist for Rashford’s goal, arrowed his shot through a crowd of players which ricocheted off player’s in blue shirts on its way past Asmir Begovic in the Chelsea goal.

 

Before the hour mark Conte attempted to turn the tide in this giant game of chess. Cesc Fabregas came on to offer much needed creativity in place of Victor Moses, asked to operate out of the other full-back position after a pre-game injury to Marcos Alonso.

 

Mourinho countered with a tactical change of his own, sacrificing pace for control, as he brought on Michael Carrick for Lingard. The switch left Rashford isolated but that did not stop the young England centre forward from hustling and bustling his was up front and making life uncomfortable for the Chelsea defenders.

 

N’golo Kante failed to get his usual grip in midfield, partly due to the excellence of Mauroane Fellaini and Herrera in midfield scurrying around refusing to give the Chelsea key players a moments rest. Matteo Darmian found himself handcuffed to Pedro on the other side of the field refusing to let the former Barcelona wide man find space to operate in.

 

Mourinho’s side could have filled their boots in truth, Rashford smashed an effort into the side netting and Young spurned two excellent chances from the edge of the area to inflict more misery onto Conte’s men. England manager Gareth Southgate was in the stands and will have been impressed with what he saw from the Manchester United English trio – especially in a new tactical set-up.

 

Rashford was brought off with just two minutes of time remaining to a standing ovation and allowed Ibrahimovic to get on in a cameo appearance.

 

Conte pleaded with his side to push forward in the closing stages but by that point United had become water tight, refusing to give an inch.

 

The final whistle brought with it a rapturous ovation, it was perhaps the most complete United performance since the days of Ferguson, and certainly the best day so far in Mourinho’s time as Man United manager. The former Chelsea boss could not have asked for much more in a week where his side have a vital away goal in the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht capped off by a monumental league victory over what many believe to be the champions elect. Mourinho was at his meticulous best – substituting captain Young fully knowing it would take the winger-turned-full-back more time to exit the field due to him passing on the armband.

 

United fans chanted Mourinho’s name in unison clearly buoyed the masterful display. The same fans which were often sickened by Mourinho bringing his Chelsea teams to Old Trafford and furthering his reputation as The Special One now get to experience perhaps what is come down long road ahead.

WWL: 5 things from Liverpool vs Sevilla, Europa League final

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during the UEFA Europa League Final match between Liverpool and Sevilla at St. Jakob-Park on May 18, 2016 in Basel, Switzerland.

Sevilla and their manager Unai Emery created history in Switzerland on Wednesday night as they became the first team to win the UFEA Europa League three times in a row. Sevilla came from behind to win 3-1 in a game that featured some chaotic attacking and fantastic finishing – Daniel Sturridge’s opener the pick of the bunch. Jurgen Klopp has now lost his second final as Liverpool manager and miss out on a chance to play Champions League football next season. Here are five things we learned from a breathtaking final.

 

5. Where’s Moreno?

Alberto Moreno was all at sea for Sevilla’s equaliser just 17 seconds into the second half. Firstly a poor headed clearance and then missed a tackle on Mariano before getting nutmegged. A nightmare 17 seconds for Moreno and after that he capitulated. We’ve seen similar performances from the Spanish left back in the past but on the biggest stage of his Liverpool career he fell to pieces after playing a big hand in dragging Sevilla, who had been awful in the first half, back into the game. Moreno nearly gave away another goal as he was caught ball watching while the electric Kevin Gameiro drifted off him. Only Simon Mignolet prevented it from getting worse a lot sooner.

 

Moreno’s miserable night was capped off when Coke ghosted in on the left hand side to controversially put the Spanish outfit 3-1 up to complete an total defensive collapse from the entire Liverpool team – save for Kolo Toure who was excellent on the night.

 

4. Game of two halves

The biggest cliché in football was evident in this final. Liverpool were in complete control in the early stages of the game and Sturridge’s outstanding, bending shot which found the right side of the goal was Liverpool’s just desserts. Liverpool were dominant and could have had another goal or two before the break – even having a Dejan Lovren goal disallowed for Sturridge in an offside position and flailing his leg at the ball, thus interfering with play. Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho ran proceedings and it was the English side that looked like the back-to-back winners of the competition.

 

Then all the momentum was sucked from Liverpool in the opening 17 seconds of the second half. Sevilla looked reenergised. It must have been the team talk of his life from Emery as his side came at Liverpool in waves and never looked like relenting. Klopp could only look on in concern as he saw his full backs exposed, wingers pinned back and his forward isolated up front struggling to hold up the ball. The German manager threw on Divock Origi and Christian Benteke on to try and give Sturridge some support but it was too late, Sevilla were in cruise control. Gameiro, Coke, Mariano and Ever Banega extinguished any Liverpool attacking threat and gave their defence nightmares.

 

3. Credit Klopp

When Jurgen Klopp came to Liverpool in October he inherited a Brendan Rodgers side that needed ‘so much work’. Fast forward to the middle of May and he’s taken them to two finals. Granted that they lost both but nobody envisioned that Klopp could work such wonders with the group of players he inherited. Liverpool fans will no doubt hurt now but they will be immensely proud of what they have achieved since Klopp arrived. Liverpool do need to recruit a number of players in the summer but they are in good hands with the charismatic German. James Milner said after the game that they didn’t do themselves justice on the night but knocking out rivals Manchester United, their comeback against Borussia Dortmund and their brilliant display against Villarreal will be moments to look back on with pride. None of this was even in a Liverpool fan’s dreams before Klopp came in.

 

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during the UEFA Europa League Final match between Liverpool and Sevilla at St. Jakob-Park on May 18, 2016 in Basel, Switzerland.

2. Width killed Liverpool

Emery is an astute tactician when it comes to making changes at half time and on the fly. He set up his side to attack the flanks of Liverpool and it paid off. Mariano bombed up and down the right hand side at will and while Moreno was exposed he had very little help from Philippe Coutinho. Nathaniel Clyne on the other side faired a little better although he too had some hairy moments and it was from his side that the ball came in for Coke’s second goal that effectively killed off the game.

 

The beneficiary from the increase in width was French forward Gameiro who found more space through the middle as the second half went on. Soon after he scored his 29th goal of the season to put his side back on level terms he could have put them ahead breaking down the centre of the pitch only for Toure to make a superb last ditch tackle. Emery won the battle of tactics and in the end it became a rather comfortable victory.

 

1. Emery’s stock rising

A third Europa League will no doubt prick up the ears of bigger clubs around Europe. In three years the former Valencia boss has lifted three European titles and he has done it while losing his best players year after year. Ivan Rakitic, Carlos Bacca, Federico Fazio, Aleix Vidal and Moreno himself have all moved on since Sevilla won the first of their hattrick of titles in 2014. To keep replenishing the squad with so many key players leaving – not to mention rotational players being on the move too, Emery has done an incredible job to maintain the level of success he has done.

 

The knock on him may be that his side does not perform well in the Champions League but when you consider that during the Champions League group stages the squad may still be gelling then it is no surprise at their exit from Europe’s biggest competition.

 

It will be interesting to see if any big clubs in England, France or Italy start to sniff around the Sevilla manager with European success so hard to come his unique triumph will have put him on every club’s radar.