On the pitch, it was Samuel Eto’o that won the match for Chelsea, being quicker than everyone in body and mind. On the sidelines, Jose Mourinho didn’t do anything exactly genius or new, but his work from before the match was enough to give his team another little edge to earn the victory.
Eto’o scored a hat trick which doubled his scoring production since arriving in the Premier League. He isn’t speaking English yet in interviews, but one good match and all of a sudden he looks very comfortable. The injury to Fernando Torres doesn’t make anyone happy, but it ensures Eto’o a longer run in the lineup without any disturbances, because Demba Ba isn’t really a threat in the rotation.
The win for Chelsea was about defending, work rate and making the most of their chances. They had their moments of dominating the pitch with possession, but they were at their best when Ramires and David Luiz closed down to help the back four, which allowed Willian and Eden Hazard to break forward on the counter attacks. Combine that with some very poor Manchester United defending, and the 3-1 win was more of a huge morale victory than an actual display of power no one can argue with.
Jose Mourinho himself played the kind of football he likes to see from his teams. Smart, patient, tidy, organized. He didn’t go for the kill, because that’s not his way; not with the backline he has (and doesn’t completely trust), not when Javier Hernandez and his scoring record are on the pitch. There’s still a shred of fear factor eroding from Manchester United, but hardly anything left. Mourinho parked the bus, paid for it by conceding a goal, but Manchester United weren’t really close to turning things around all of a sudden.
Mourinho worked Moyes’ psyche before the game, crossing lines that made him apologize, but it didn’t matter. With or without him trying to get into Moyes’ head and shake things up, Manchester United are a side with plenty of problems, but his stirring certainly didn’t help.
Chelsea, the favorites? Not yet, not until we see what they do in their visit to Manchester City. Arsenal are still in the lead, but it seems everyone is waiting for them to fall. The soft image isn’t going to disappear until the final day of the season, when the Gunners (if, to be more accurate) lift the title.
Manchester United? Chelsea took care of the last hope among Red Devils fans that there’s hope of being a factor in the championship race. A champions league spot? Not easy either, but Chelsea don’t care about that. They have bigger fish to fry.