By Tim Harrison
Considering we were watching the same shower who stuttered and stumbled last season, Chelsea’s root-and-branch demolition of Manchester United (and Jose Mourinho’s fragile ego) was all the more remarkable.
I made it precisely 29 seconds when the first goal crossed the line, after Pedro’s lightning sprint caught the Reds’ defence cold. What had United spent the warm-up doing? Sudokus?
The Blues are developing into a team of mighty midgets. Any smaller, and they’ll be running under opponents, rather than round them. Yes, Gary Cahill stands at a disappointing 6ft 4in, and of course Thibaut Courtois (who made two or three magnificent saves to keep a clean sheet) is a ridiculous 6ft 6in, but Victor Moses claims to be 5ft 10in, Eden Hazard is 5ft 8in, N’Golo Kante is 5ft 6in and when Pedro was last checked he was a dinky 5ft 5in.
Not since the great days of David Speedie (5ft 7in), Dennis Wise (5ft 6in) and John Spencer (5ft 5in) have Chelsea delighted in such pocket-sized powerhouses. Yet this is, broadly speaking, the same Chelsea which, in 2014, fielded the tallest team in Premier League history.
And the same Chelsea which laboured against Arsenal and Liverpool before their new, nippy, pint-sized, rapid-advance formation began blowing everyone out of the water.
The returning Mourinho, in extremely bad humour by the end of the weekend’s 4-0 thrashing and grumpily complaining in Tony Conte’s ear at the final whistle about the perceived disrespect and lack of restraint surrounding his goal celebrations, simply got the tactics wrong.
Why he and his back-room team – the same group he had at Stamford Bridge – hadn’t paid closer attention to the manner of Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Leicester the previous week is simply baffling. But United arrived, determined to play their own game, and ended up simply humiliated by the Blues’ ultra-fast marauding style.
A trip to Southampton is next, where Claude Puel is likely to take Chelsea’s threat more seriously.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.