Maurizio Sarri

Most football followers had tipped Chelsea to beat Manchester United as the two sides met at Stamford Bridge last weekend. José Mourinho’s side has had a topsy-turvy start to the campaign. Not only is the club not playing the best football, but wins have been few and far between.

After nine rounds of matches, Man United sit in tenth place on the league table, nine points behind Manchester City and Liverpool who are separated by goal difference at the top. The season has been docked with controversies and quarrels at Old Trafford while results on the pitch have continued to suffer.

At a point speculation on the manager’s imminent sack became a daily occurrence. But most of the club’s supporters have stood behind their manager. This has made it difficult for the board to fire him.

On the contrary, the Chelsea faithfuls are having it so good especially when it comes to as on-field activities. Maurizio Sarri is not only playing football that is easy on the eye, he is winning. The Blues have gone from last season’s strugglers to this season’s title contenders. They sit third on the league table, only two points behind second-placed Liverpool and leaders Manchester City. That’s a massive improvement from Antonio Conte’s side in the last campaign.

Expectedly, the home side held Man United captive in the first half of the game. Chelsea led 1-0 after the break, but on the balance of play, it could have been worse for the Red Devils. Chelsea dominated the ball, claiming 60 per cent of possession in the first half, and could have been two up just after the break had Alvaro Morata done better with his low effort from just inside the box.

But from then on in the second half, United grew into the game. Mourinho’s men began to dominate spells of the game and deservedly got the equaliser through Anthony Martial in the 55th minute. The fact that United went 54 minutes without a shot on target, before two in 20 seconds resulted in an equaliser says a lot about the way the game unfolded until that point.

The Frenchman stole the show later on as he put the away side ahead in the 73rd minute. At 2-1, United now controlled the game and Sarri’s men were playing catch-up. Playing with a yellow card, Eden Hazard had become ineffective as Chelsea’s front line was rendered impotent. David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger were pushed to their limits as United sought to kill off the game.

Sarri had to do something fast as the game was slipping away from him. He brought on Olivier Giroud for Alvaro Morata in the 78th minute to strengthen the attack. But it was his earlier substitute that pulled the nut out of the fire. Against all odds, Ross Barkley fired home from close range to level the game 2-2 in the 6th minute of stoppage time. It was a dramatic comeback, and one that spoke volumes of the team’s chances at challenging for the league title this season.

Chelsea remains unbeaten in the league as a result and in the mix as far as the title race is concerned. And if there is one thing we have learned about the Blues under the former Napoli boss, it is the fact that they want to win trophies with Sarri-ball.


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