Mourinho scores psychological points after taking the real ones

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho claimed that Chelsea had secured a vital psychological advantage over Manchester United with their obdurate 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge yesterday.

Jose Mourinho claimed that Chelsea had secured a vital psychological advantage over Manchester United with their obdurate 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge yesterday.

Indeed mind games were prominent in the post-match remarks from Chelsea's new coach as he also took a swipe at United defender Mikael Silvestre - who had questioned Chelsea's "team spirit" - and offered calculated comfort to Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I said to Mr Ferguson after the match that they did not deserve to leave Stamford Bridge with nothing," he said, barely able to conceal his relieved glee.

The result may prove crucial - even this early in the season - and Mourinho's comments were designed to aggravate Ferguson. He gently took the bait.

"I don't need anyone to tell me about that," he said when reminded of Mourinho's verdict. "I can make my own judgement about that."

Pity Mourinho's players did not prove so threatening on the pitch after a bright start. Champagne football it wasn't - although Ferguson did share a glass of red wine with Mourinho after the match.

An early goal from Eidur Gudjohnsen was enough to secure the victory although Ryan Giggs should have equalised with a late header. In truth United, with their injury worries, threatened little although they did dominate possession and pushed Chelsea back. Mourinho admitted: "If you have to play a little bit different to win a game then you have to do it. Mr Ferguson pushed me to make changes that normally I don't do, to play a safer match - and in fact the team defended very, very, very well. They played well, weren't afraid of us, and risked everything at 1-0 down."

For Mourinho the three points were of paramount importance and his approach suggested Chelsea will be more pragmatic than last season which, ultimately, may not satisfy Roman Abramovich's demand for winning games 5-0. It was important to gain that advantage, Mourinho said, especially as all but eight of his players will now go on international duty, and that they have not been together so long.

"We were a team, mentally, today - and we had to win this match because of the three points we get against our direct opponent," he said. "And I think we deserved them because of the team spirit. When Silvestre said that maybe we did not have that yet, he was wrong. This group of players have been fantastic since the first day.

"Manchester United and Arsenal have great teams and have worked with their managers for a long time. We've been together for three weeks but we have this spirit and organisation and we play with maximum effort and quality at certain moments. I always feel that in these big, big matches a lot of emotion is involved and you feel that the team that defends well normally wins."

Mourinho also shrugged off the abuse he received from United fans behind the dug-outs. "I thought it was a beautiful song," he said. Doubtlesshe enjoyed the meal he had last night with his wife to celebrate her birthday. "I thought before the game, 'This is an unbelievable atmosphere'," he added.

It is one Ferguson is used to. His disappointment - at losing so narrowly with a makeshift side - was obvious. "I hoped for more from our possession, which we dominated, although our crosses were a bit scrappy and over-hit," he said.

"It was a good performance by us, we worked really hard, we can consider ourselves a bit unlucky. We had a lot of possession last year too and lost to a penalty so it's not been a good ground for us the last two seasons. But I'm confident in the ability of the team. I was before the match and I've no reason to think any differently after it."

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