It was a huge clash between two Premier League heavyweights that took place on Sunday evening at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea went into the game knowing that they needed to win to end a run of bad form after a humiliating thrashing in Rome in midweek. Manchester United desperately needed a win against one of the title rivals to show that they do have what it takes.
It was Antonio Conte who extended Chelsea’s unbeaten run against United at Stamford Bridge, dating back to 1998, thanks to a header from Alvaro Morata, after he had previously seen a goal disallowed after he was adjudged to have pushed Phil Jones into volleying into his own net.
Here are three key talking points from the game…
Alvaro Morata showed Jose Mourinho what he is missing
We may never know what truly happened regarding Morata’s potential summer move to Manchester United, but instead Mourinho opted for Romelu Lukaku and Morata ended up at Stamford Bridge. On Sunday, the Spaniard got his revenge with the winning goal coming from a trademark header.
To simply consider his winning goal would be overly simplistic. For the full 90 minutes Morata was a thorn in United’s side, causing Phil Jones and co. numerous problems with his movement and skill. Romelu Lukaku, on the other hand, faded into anonymity as he so often does in big games. The last laugh on this occasion belongs to the Chelsea centre forward.
Don’t rule out Antonio Conte just yet
It’s been a rocky few weeks for the Italian coach. Up against his predecessor in the Stamford Bridge dugout, many were beginning to speculate that a poor result could only send Conte further down the path towards Roman Abramovich’s office to receive his P45. Instead, the Blues produced a performance reflective of their status as reigning champions.
That had a lot to do with the return of N’Golo Kante. His presence had a huge impact on the Chelsea back three, with the likes of Andreas Christensen looking calm and collected, and he organised the midfield, easing the pressure on Tiemoue Bakayoko. It may be hard for Conte to turn things around enough to persuade the Russian owner he is the right man for the job, but he shouldn’t need to.
Jose Mourinho has no plan B
Defend deep. Sit tight and hope for an opposition mistake. Bring on pace and creativity with players like Anthony Martial late on against tired legs. Add in Marouane Fellaini and the long ball if it gets desperate. It has served Jose Mourinho and Manchester United well of late, but in recent weeks there have been signs that opposition managers are beginning to figure out how to beat the Red Devils.
Mourinho dully followed his plan, with a few kickings for Eden Hazard added in for good measure, but was outsmarted by Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s defence, so leaky against Roma, stood firm and avoided mistakes, and Alvaro Morata was ten times the striker Romelu Lukaku was and scored the goal to make the difference.