Mourinho scorned as Grant aims high
Wednesday 07 May 2008
Avram Grant has sent out a positive message to his Chelsea players ahead of Sunday's climax to the domestic season by the simple expedient of trashing the reputation of his predecessor.
A 2-0 win against Newcastle on Sunday afternoon kept the pressure on Manchester United in the race for the Premier League title. United face Wigan in the final game of the season on Sunday knowing victory would guarantee that the title remains with them because of their vastly superior goal difference – and one problem for Grant to deal with at the weekend will be the probable absence of Ricardo Carvalho, whose back injury forced him off on Sunday. But Grant was still talking up his side's chances ahead of the visit by Bolton Wanderers.
When Jose Mourinho left Stamford Bridge in September last year there was surprise in some quarters and consternation in others when Grant – seemingly the archetypal backroom type – was given the responsibility of taking the club onwards.
With United and Chelsea due to meet in the Champions League final in Moscow on 21 May, Grant is thrilled at the way the players have responded to his methods.
"I just need to do my job and be professional as I came here on a mission," he said. "The club was a good club but on the way down. Now we are on the right way.
"It is very exciting when you are creating something, especially at Chelsea. When we lost in the Cup it was like a funeral. It is a big challenge for me and one that makes me happy. We have fantastic players and fantastic staff. We are also playing good football, exciting football."
When Mourinho departed, Chelsea were indeed off the pace in the league and struggling to stay in the Champions League after drawing with Rosenborg at home, but Grant's claim may elicit derisive snorts from the Mourinho camp.
Nevertheless, apart from the Carling Cup final defeat against Tottenham, Grant has good reason to be cheerful, no matter what happens on Sunday or in Moscow. "We will never give up," Grant said. "No one thought of us as a candidate in the title race. Now only goal difference separates us from United. I know it will be difficult for them at Wigan."
One of Chelsea's most improved players this season, midfielder Michael Ballack, meanwhile, believes the club have the momentum in their favour.
United's 4-1 win at West Ham on Saturday swung the title race in their favour but Chelsea responded in style at a ground where they had not previously won since 2001.
Ballack said: "We saw the Manchester United game and I am sure that they watched our match on TV. It was important to show them what we could do, not just as they are our opponents in the league but in the Champions League too. We proved we are a very strong team. We have a good shape and look good. Now we will see what happens on Sunday."
Ballack expects Wigan to test United to the full. "We have put pressure on United," said the former Bayern Munich midfielder. "Now we hope Wigan are proud enough to give everything in the last game."
Ballack has been a revelation in recent weeks and scored crucial goals in big games. The German scored a brace in the win over United 10 days ago which really opened up the title race.
Then he made the breakthrough against an in-form Newcastle side. Florent Malouda added a late goal to secure the points they needed to keep the fight going right until the end.
Ballack's season began only in December following an ankle operation, which had left him on the sidelines for eight months. He said: "I had a difficult time but I am over that now. I have enjoyed the last weeks. I hope it keeps going."
By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
Latest in Sport
Manchester City vs Manchester United combined XI: No place for Yaya Toure... or any United defenders
Sami Khedira transfer news: Arsenal can win the Premier League if they sign Khedira in January, says Perry Groves
Manchester City vs Manchester United analysis: Manuel Pellegrini has no excuse for City's lack of a Plan B, writes Danny Higginbotham
Chelsea injury list: Loic Remy lead the Blues' absent players while Diego Costa is set to return
Radamel Falcao: Manchester United ready to seal permanent transfer of striker as 'everything is complete' to extend his Old Trafford stay
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything