Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1 match report: Samuel Eto'o's hat-trick gives Jose Mourinho his 100th Premier League victory and creates more misery for David Moyes

Hernandez pulled one back for United before Vidic was dismissed late on

Stamford Bridge

Even Jose Mourinho, the man with a word or a gesture for every occasion, did not know where to look as Nemanja Vidic trudged in despair to the touchline after his red card in the closing stages of yet another Manchester United defeat.

The defending champions of England have become the embarrassing relative in the Premier League family; consistently letting themselves down on the big occasions, presiding over a shocking slide in standards and all of a sudden, the subject of pity rather than envy. Their rivals might even feel sorry for them if they were not so busy beating them.

Mourinho, a man given to mercilessly wringing out the last drop of advantage, did not bother to push Phil Dowd hard when it came to a foul worthy of a red card by Rafael Da Silva in the last few moments. All great generals have the knack of knowing when an opponent has been defeated and it certainly seemed that way with Mourinho, who was more disposed to sympathy towards United in his post-match press conference.

He threw some scraps United’s way: they had been the better team in the first 20 minutes of the game – that was true – and that Rafael’s reckless lunge at Gary Cahill was just a mark of frustration. There is no mileage in trying to psyche out a club that are 14 points off the top of the Premier League when he has much more serious rivals to contemplate.

This is where the United of 2014 currently rank in the concerns of the leading teams of the day. With four defeats in five in January, they are an after-thought. Mourinho delivered the bad news that the title race is now over for United with as much compassion as he could muster and a preface of “I am sure David won’t mind me saying ...” His logic was that while one of the top three could possibly blow up, not all of them would.

It was left to David Moyes to put a brave face on it all and talk about the scope of the “challenge” facing United. He blamed defeat on the “terrible defending” for the two set-pieces that led to the second and third goals of the hat-trick for Samuel Eto’o. But it is easier to reduce defeats like these to the details – the runner not tracked, the tackle missed – and ignore the bigger picture.

 

That picture is that once the effort of the opening stages was expended by United they never looked like finding a way back in. Without Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie there is not that critical force which will place an opponent of the calibre of Chelsea under the kind of pressure that can break them. United pulled one back through the substitute Javier Hernandez but what they had was never going to be enough.

There were some good performances in the United team, from Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj. Unfortunately for United, these are interesting little guitar solos compared to the might and discipline of Mourinho’s orchestra. This Chelsea team has the nous to dig in when the pressure is on, and the awareness to exploit the weaknesses of an opponent when the opportunity arises.

It was a great afternoon for Eto’o on the occasion of Mourinho’s 100th career Premier League win. His first goal came after an innocuous header away by Jonny Evans. On the right side, Eto’o seemed unsure where to go at first but when Phil Jones bought his dummy so easily he headed for goal and got a shot off as Michael Carrick came over to cover. The ball flicked up off the United midfielder and beat David De Gea at his far post.

Carrick had been one of the prime movers in a positive start for United. It was his ball out left to Ashley Young that created a chance within two minutes. Young exchanged passes with Welbeck on the left side of the area but, with a sight of goal, he could not get the ball past Petr Cech.

In those early stages United looked like a team responding to the demands of their manager to take charge of the game. Carrick stroked the ball around in the centre of midfield, Januzaj would later tie David Luiz up in knots and then slot the ball perfectly across the penalty area where, typically for United, no-one was waiting.

There was more misfortune later in the first half for United when Cesar Azpilicueta took away Welbeck’s standing foot as the forward was in the act of shooting. To Welbeck’s credit he managed to get a shot away and Moyes said later that a penalty on that occasion would have been “soft”.

The second Chelsea goal just before half-time was the first of those abject defensive episodes. Welbeck’s clearance from a corner fell to Ramires who pushed the ball out to Gary Cahill on the right and his cross was turned in relatively easily by Eto’o. The cameras picked out Rafael’s meander away from the left side he should have been defending, but in truth the whole United defence was woefully ineffective.

At that point it became critical for Moyes. Four minutes after half-time, Cahill won a header unopposed which De Gea just about saved with his elbow. With Valencia preoccupied with trying to wrestle Eto’o out of contention, the Chelsea striker prodded the ball into the goal.

The afternoon had begun with United fans baiting Mourinho over missing out on succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson; to which he responded with a cursory wave. By the end it was all about Moyes and the Chelsea fans who sang “we want you to stay”. As his team regrouped after the third goal they looked crushed. Patrice Evra hobbled off. The game was up.

Mourinho later acknowledged that United fought back bravely. Hernandez poked in Jones’ shot after excellent work from Welbeck. There was tiredness in Chelsea’s legs and Mourinho opted to send on the giant Nemanja Matic to shore up a five-man midfield. In the meantime, Fernando Torres, another substitute, sustained a knee ligament injury that could rule him out for a month.

The red card for Vidic for his tackle on Eden Hazard in the closing stages and Rafael’s subsequent rush of blood just added to the theme of raggedness about United. They need Rooney and Van Persie back as soon as possible but when it comes to making good, that really is only the start.

Chelsea: (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Luiz; Willian (Matic, 85), Oscar (Mikel, 68), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres, 79).

Substitutes not used: Schwarzer (gk), Cole, Lampard, Mata.

Manchester United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; R Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, Evra (Smalling, 51); Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Young (Hernandez, 56); Januzaj; Welbeck.

Substitutes not used: Lindegaard (gk), Giggs, Cleverley, Fletcher, Kagawa.

Referee: P Dowd

Booked: Manchester United Young

Sent off: Vidic

Man of the match: Eto’o

Rating: 6/10

Further reading...

Moyes won't let go of title hopes but Mourinho says 'no chance'

Comment: Mourinho reaches his century in second gear but tougher tests await

Five things we learnt from Stamford Bridge

Player ratings from Stamford Bridge

Premier League Sunday - as it happened

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn