In the context of the occasion and given the history of it, you could forgive Jose Mourinho using - yes - that word, but then it also fit the performance.
This win, in fact, offered the type of intensity that first justified it.
The Manchester United manager said his side’s 2-0 win over his old club Chelsea was, of course, “special”.
Mourinho stopped short of describing it as his best at the club so far, but with the way United stormed at the league leaders with fittingly sweeping goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera, it may well have been his best in almost three years. It was that emphatic, that reminiscent of his best. The Portuguese refused to be drawn on whether it gave any extra satisfaction to beat the club who sacked him in December 2015 - and thereby avoid a third successive defeat to them this season - merely saying it pleased to keep in touch with Liverpool and Manchester City in the race for the top four.
“I think we had very good performances. I think Arsenal here [a 1-1 draw], Tottenham [Hotspur] here [a 1-0 win], we played really well but today I think was a special performance because it was a special opponent: the leader, the way they play, and I think we played really well, very solid performance. We gave them double problems, problems when we had the ball and problems when we recovered the ball because we were really sharp and fast and aggressive in our transitions. I am very happy.”
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0 player ratings
Manchester United 2 Chelsea 0 player ratings
1/22 David de Gea - 6 out of 10
Rarely tested. Impressive under the high balls and in his distribution.
2/22 Antonio Valencia - 7
Solid all round performance from him. Strong going forward and assured on the back foot. Physically impressive too.
3/22 Eric Bailly - 7
COmposed under pressure, read the game brilliantly and made all the right decisions. Excellent defensive display.
4/22 Marcos Rojo - 6
A gritty and fiesty display. Battled hard against Costa and largely kept his cool while the Spaniard repeatedly lost his.
5/22 Matteo Darmian - 6
Kept Pedro under wraps and limited the wingers' influence for much of the game.
6/22 Ander Herrera - 8
Demonstrated fantastic vision to play in Rashford for United's goal. Hard-working as ever. Shame about the yellow card but completely ran the game today.
7/22 Marouane Fellaini - 7
United's battering ram. Strong in the air, firm in his challenges and excellent at breaking up play. Dominated against Kante too.
8/22 Paul Pogba - 7
A rounded, mature performance from the Frenchman. May not have threatened as others did but kept the United midfield ticking over with his constant passing and movement. Still missing that 'wow' factor though.
9/22 Ashley Young - 7
Another hard worker who dug deep to give 100 per cent today. Made some encouraging runs going forward and was vital in the build-up to United's second.
10/22 Marcus Rashford - 8
FUll of confidence and energy. Used his pace to devasting effect and proved to be too much for the visiting defence at times. Showed today what he's truly capable of.
11/22 Jesse Lingard - 7
Complimented Rashford to a tee. Excelled at getting in behind United's backline and provided a reliable outlet throughout.
12/22 Asmir Begović - 6
Could have maybe done more for the first goal but unlucky about the second. Made some important saves to keep the score down.
13/22 Kurt Zouma - 5
Stepped in to replace Marcos Alonso which subsequently disrupted the balance to Antonio Conte's team. Looked out of place.
14/22 David Luiz - 5
Guilty of costly mistakes and, rather surprisingly, was overpowered at times by Rashford. A shadow of the player he has been this season.
15/22 Gary Cahill - 4
Completely dropped his guard for United's second. Struggled to match Rashford for his pace and made multiple sloppy mistakes. An afternoon to forget for him.
16/22 Victor Moses - 4
Anonymous and largely ineffective. Hauled off around the hour mark for Cesc Fabregas.
17/22 N'Golo Kanté - 6
Showcased his ability to drive into space on a number of occasions but was overwhelmed physically throughout the match by Fellaini.
18/22 Nemanja Matic - 5
Struggled defensively and seemed out of his depth. Couldn't deal with the United set-up.
19/22 Cesar Azpilicueta - 6
Pushed forward down the flank and provided his team-mates with a reliable source of deliveries. Defensively, he enjoyed a better display than the rest of the Chelsea back line.
20/22 Pedro - 5
Enjoyed a few half-chances but was subdued and lacked any real dynamism.
21/22 Eden Hazard - 6
Missed that magic touch today. Was played out of the game by Herrera. Occasionally threatened with his quick feet but it wasn't to be.
22/22 Diego Costa - 5
Bullish but another disappointing performance. His quality on the ball and in front of goal deteriorated as his composure faded throughout the game.
As to whether he was happy to just beat Chelsea?
“The satisfaction is for different reasons. The first is with Liverpool and Manchester City victories [this weekend]. If we don’t win, goodbye Premier League. These three points were phenomenal. The second is they are the leader. When you beat the leader it is obviously a very good feeling.
“I had the feeling before this match but now totally convinced, with 11 players at Stamford Bridge in the second game [the 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Chelsea in March] we would be playing against Tottenham [Hotspur] at Wembley this weekend [instead of Chelsea].”
One of the big discussion points of the game was whether Rahsford’s rampant running to go with his goal, and how it made United so much livelier, should justify getting into the team ahead of the rested Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“I have the same question downstairs. Rashford is the third or fourth player with more minutes on the pitch and when everyone tries to guess the young player who has minutes with me, he is third or fouth. He plays every game, on the right on the left in one striker in two strikers. For his education this is a phenomenal season with an amazing range of different experience. He is not scoring enough goals. Even today he does not score the first. The kid played very well and again.”
Mourinho was asked how it feels to go 22 games unbeaten in the league and, while expressing frustration that has not led to a title challenge, believes it can be the foundation for one if they add a touch more quality to what he considers a strong squad.
“Normally you win the title if you are 22 matches unbeatable and we are struggling to finish top four. Everybody knows why because we drew too many matches at home and we are paying the price. It is a great feeling to know it is difficult for us to lose a match. We fight until the end. We score last minute here against Everton and Liverpool. We need a little more quality and different qualities in some positions to make the squad stronger but in terms of character and the human side I have one of the best groups ever.”Reuse content