This used to be a love affair for the ages but after a tepid divorce in 2015, Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge for the second time on Monday after being named as Manchester United manager with bad memories of his last trip.
The United manager has been up to his usual tricks – moaning about fixture pile up; denigrating Chelsea’s style of play and ultimately playing mind games, for which he has found an unworthy opponent in Chelsea’s new adored manager, Antonio Conte.
At the top of Jose’s mind as he prepares his team for another excursion to the Bridge would be to ensure there is no repeat of the 4-0 hammering. That he can achieve by doing these three things:
Play three central defenders
This does not mean mirroring Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation – it would be more like 5-4-1. The centre backs are to ensure that the three Chelsea forwards in transition have a designated marker. Mourinho then needs to add full backs and not wingbacks.
Don’t play Mata at all
With his side needing all the speed they can get on the break, Juan Mata is not the player that will be useful on Monday. He is better with Ashley Young or Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Ensure no early concession
What made October’s loss more daunting was the concession of a goal in the very first minute. From that time, United were always chasing the game, which left his side very exposed.
The mind games continue…
Mourinho insinuated in his pre-match press conference that while United have had to shuffle and reshuffle players on account of many fixtures – Chelsea have had time to train, relax and plan extensively.
“The most difficult thing to have is time to work, and they have time to work,” Mourinho added tongue-in-cheek that the Blues defend with five players while he used four in his time at the team.
“They defend a lot and well, and they kill opponents on the counter-attack, similar to my Chelsea.”
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all missing, the onus is on Chelsea to continue winning.
Mourinho added, “I have no regrets. I am not looking for bad feelings at all. It’s just a game that comes in the wrong moment because the Europa League can give us a Champions League spot. It is more important than the FA Cup for us.”
EDITOR’s NOTE: The headline was edited to accurately relect the content of the story