MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
Red Devils in the details
Jose Mourinho has spent much of this decade looking like a man who has taken a vow not to experience human joy in any of its forms, but even his switchblade heart must have been beating faster for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. The meeting against Chelsea was a gala occasion for the Portuguese, who started the day by whining about the fixture computer in his programme notes (one for the Mourinho bingo card) and ended it purring about a performance that probably exceeded even his expectations. United were excellent, stifling the league leaders and securing a victory that – until the next frustrating home draw at least – revives hopes of sneaking into the top four.
For Chelsea, there were extenuating circumstances: Thibaut Courtois was absent, supposedly after picking up an injury while recording an advert, and Marcos Alonso pulled out at the last minute. But they were out-thought and out-fought by the Red Devils, who marked Eden Hazard out of the game and repeatedly breached the away defence.
Significantly, they did so without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, rested – no matter what Mourinho claims – for Thursday’s Europa League showdown with Anderlecht. In came Marcus Rashford, who seized a rare chance to play in his favoured position with both hands, scoring the opener and earning praise from his manager.
United are still fifth, but their fate is in their own hands: win all their remaining games and a Champions League berth will be assured, no matter what the remainder of their continental campaign brings. If Mourinho can coax a few more displays of this ilk out of his players, Liverpool and Manchester City will have reason to be afraid.
Did someone say ‘title race’?
No one at Chelsea is pressing the panic button just yet, but Antonio Conte would be forgiven for having a few sleepless nights over the next week or so. His side’s lead at the summit is now down to four points, with goal difference favouring chasers-in-chief Tottenham, who romped to their second successive 4-0 win this weekend.
Bournemouth were the unlucky losers on this occasion and as we enter the home straight there can be little doubt that Spurs are the form team in the division. They have a stiffer fixture list than Chelsea but look imperious at both ends of the pitch, another clean sheet laying the foundations for victory and Harry Kane’s scoring return underlining the wealth of attacking options that Mauricio Pochettino has at his disposal.
Next up: an FA Cup semi-final between the two contenders. The narrative gods have done well.
Bad start for the Adams family
It appears that Tony Adams didn’t quite get his message across with that sensational training-ground dance routine. For the former Arsenal defender’s managerial bow in Spain ended in a 3-0 home defeat for his Granada side, which edges them ever closer to relegation.
Where next for Señor Adams as he seeks to inspire his charges through diverse artforms? Sculpture? Poetry? Minimal German techno? The Warm-Up awaits further news with interest.
IN OTHER NEWS
The Warm-Up spent a good six minutes thinking about how to frame this for maximum comedic impact – something about agricultural football, perhaps – but the truth is that sometimes the bare facts stand up for themselves.
To wit: Manchester United have an official tractor partner. This is not a drill.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: The Warm-Up: Hands up if you want a title race