CHELSEA 3, MANCHESTER UNITED 1
United’s chances of retaining their title lay in tatters after a humbling 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge. They are now 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal, 13 points behind Manchester City and 12 points behind Chelsea who are in third place.
It will be little consolation for United manager David Moyes, again without injured Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, that his side dominated the first quarter of an hour of this contest but failed to take their chances and were duly punished by a Chelsea side who were more than capable of exploiting the chances that came their way along with a thick slice of luck.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said it was unlikely that all three of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea would drop enough points allow United back into the title race.
He said: “Maybe one team collapses but for three to collapse is difficult, so for them I think it is the fight to finish in the top four.
“They will do that with their pride and tradition and fight and hopefully they win against the other contenders because now we do not play against them in the league.”
United manager David Moyes refused to believe that captain Nemanja Vidic’s injury time tackle on Eden Hazard deserved a red card and felt that United didn’t deserve to be 2-0 down at half time.
He later said: “I think Rafael’s tackle was probably a red card but Vidic’s was just a yellow.
“We had a bit of bad luck with their first goal but we can’t blame anyone else for the other two. We didn’t defend well enough and didn’t get a chance like Chelsea to score, so we can only blame ourselves for that.
“We just didn’t do what was required in the crucial areas but we will have to make progress and improve.”
Moyes also refused to concede the title.
He added: “What we don’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there. The job is to try to finish first and we’ll try to do that.”
The more important statistics show that United were polished off within 50 minutes by Samuel Eto’o who repaid Jose Mourinho’s faith in him by netting a hat trick.
Jose Mourinho celebrated his 100th victory in the Barclays Premier League and maintained his incredible unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge in the league.
Moyes elected to choose Adnan Januzaj to play just off Danny Welbeck while Phil Jones came into midfield with Ashley Young displacing Shinji Kagawa on the left of midfield. For 15 glorious minutes the plan seemed to work as United forced Chelsea onto the back foot with Januzaj causing problems in the Chelsea defence but they were hit with a sucker punch when they failed to make a breakthrough.
Goals either side of half time finished off the Reds who seemed shell shocked after the Cameroon striker deflected opener in the 17th minute wiped out all the good work that had been done in the opening stages of this vital Barclays Premier League encounter.
Eto’o’s first slice of luck came when his routine shot took a wicked deflection off Michael Carrick and looped past a wrong-footed David De Gea in the United goal.
Just before half time Danny Welbeck’s poor clearance was sent back in by Ramires. Cahill was played onside by Vidic and squared the ball to Eto’o who pounced.
Eto’o completed his hat trick four minutes after the break after more poor United defending from a set piece. Cahill was unmarked as he rose to meet Willian’s corner. De Gea palmed the ball away but the lurking Cameroon striker was left with a tap in with the ball at his feet.
Chelsea’s concentration level dropped after that and Javier Hernandez could have punished casual play on the ball by Peter Cech when he slid in to win a loose ball.
Hernandez eventually pulled one back with 12 minutes to go when Welbeck’s cut back to Phil Jones was scuffed by the England man but the Mexican striker turned the ball in.
It was nothing more than a consolation as Chelsea shut up shop and United didn’t look like breaching their defence after that but there was to be a further blow for United’s season when Vidic was sent off for a hack on Hazard. Rafael should have been given his marching orders too for a two footed rash tackle on Cahill for which he was only booked.