Mourinho's blueprint for Chelsea success

Posted by Mark Worrall

With the dust already settled on a dour Manchester United-versus-Chelsea encounter that completely failed to live up to the pre-match hype, Blues supporters have more reasons to be cheerful about the 0-0 outcome than do their Red counterparts. Chitchat on the "football special" train from London to Manchester had focused on two topics: (1) the generosity of Chelsea Football Club to subsidise the cost of the return train journey to just £10 for supporters with a match ticket, and (2) the fact that all present, if given the opportunity to take a point from the fixture before a ball had been kicked, would have done so right away.

The key talking points after the game were somewhat different, with many feeling that Jose Mourinho, given his team selection and tactical approach to the game, clearly didn't have a spectacular display of attacking football in mind when he plotted to draw the potential sting of Robin van Persie and neutralise United's midfield.

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The Special One's starting XI endorsed the belief that the faith he has in his three recognized strikers, particularly in the case of the unfortunate Romelu Lukaku, doesn't match that of supporters, who had been keen to see the Belgian international given the opportunity to once more destroy the Red Devils' defence.

Mourinho chose instead to flood Chelsea's midfield with the Blues line almost but not quite led by Andre Schurrle, a game plan redolent of his time managing Inter Milan when the consistently successful ends justified the obdurate means, but drew criticism from football purists.

Behind Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne was preferred to Juan Mata, who curiously warmed the bench for the entire evening, and then it was a case of as-you-were for the rest of the team. Chelsea's backline, led by the peerless John Terry, put in the type of shift that Manuel Pellegrini, new-boy manager of Manchester's other team, who was watching from the stands, can only dream of at present, given City's woeful defensive capitulation at the weekend.

As the game unfolded, there was a distinct element of "Look how much we need someone like Wayne Rooney" about Mourinho's Chelsea -- and Rooney, for his part, given the opportunity to start by David Moyes, didn't disappoint. Despite his wantaway stance and the fact that he is a hot transfer target for Chelsea, the United striker was warmly applauded by home fans and greeted with the excellent and amusing chant "We'll see you next week" by good-humoured Blues supporters keen to stir the will-he-leave-won't-he-leave pot that has been bubbling away nicely on the transfer hob ever since Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge.

Rooney's commitment to the United cause was unquestionable; he was by some distance their best player and his five-star performance removed any nagging doubts that Chelsea supporters may have had as to why Mourinho should continue his pursuit to sign the player.

At the end of an evening when both teams huffed and puffed but never really looked like blowing any houses down, United manager Moyes maintained his unwanted statistic of never having won at Old Trafford or got the better of Mourinho, and Chelsea returned home top of the league.

With a gap of almost three weeks until their next Premier League fixture, a period during which the transfer window will close, it will be interesting to see what transpires at Stamford Bridge. The odds on Rooney leaving Manchester for London and Chelsea have lengthened significantly in the past couple of days; it's a deal that just doesn't look like coming together.

There remains a certain amount of intrigue around the future of Mata, who was Chelsea's best player by some distance last season, and it is the wish of Blues fans that the Spaniard finds favour with Mourinho. The arrival of Willian will surely see the departure, most probably on loan, of another Blues midfielder, probably Victor Moses -- and there may be one or two other squad players loaned out to further their experience via regular first-team game time elsewhere.

All of this leaves just one question. As witnessed Monday night, without a blunt striking instrument to deliver the telling blow up front, Chelsea will struggle for goals in games against their title rivals. What will Jose do? Samuel Eto'o is an available option and possible short-term solution, but is he still up to the job?

Maybe Mourinho has it in his mind that if he has to he can mastermind winning the Premier League simply by avoiding defeat in the "big" games and ensuring victory against the top-flight also-rans. Whatever the case may be, it certainly makes for absorbing debate, and despite the negative stalemate of Monday night's match, the feeling remains that this season is going to be both different and special. With Jose Mourinho back in town, you wouldn't expect anything else.

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