Manchester United and Moyes Must Learn from Chelsea Boss Mourinho's Arrogance

Phil KeidelContributor IIJanuary 19, 2014

Moyes brought a knife to a gunfight and left riddled with bullets.
Moyes brought a knife to a gunfight and left riddled with bullets.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

It was in the 54th minute, shortly after Chelsea had put the third, last dagger into Manchester United, that NBC Sports Network's camera caught Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho sharing a sardonic chuckle with one of his lieutenants.

Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United taught the Premier League very little about Chelsea, but plenty about United. Chelsea are still a real threat to win the league. United, though, are now clearly a real threat to fall out of Champions League qualification entirely.

At least on this day, though, United boss David Moyes' biggest mistake was not heeding the hubris-laden words of Mourinho.

In response to a question about how he would manage if not for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's stated preference for being entertained while Chelsea win:

"If I want to win 1-0, I think I can," Mourinho was quoted as saying by Hannah Duncan of the Metro. "One of the easiest things in football is to win 1-0. You structure your team from the back, you organise your team from the defensive idea, you don’t give freedom to your players to express themselves."

Insufferable, yes, but no dummy.
Insufferable, yes, but no dummy.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Which is exactly how Moyes should have managed this match with Chelsea.

United went to Stamford Bridge without their two best players. Neither Wayne Rooney nor Robin van Persie dressed. That simple fact made caution and conservatism the right watch-words for Moyes.

Instead, Moyes took Chelsea on directly and found his side down two goals at the break and three after 50 minutes. Worse yet, United were victimized by a natural hat-trick from the heretofore unremarkable Samuel Eto'o, who had scored only three goals in the league all season before rending United asunder.

Yes, United had more than an equal share of possession in this match. But they did remarkably little with it until the final 20 minutes, by which time the cause was lost.

Had Moyes chosen a more practical, drab strategy, United could have taken some of the air from the ball and negated some of the speed advantage Chelsea had in Eden Hazard, Ramires and Eto'o.

Playing without a credible striker, though, Moyes blindly asked United to pour forward. They did, to precious little effect.

It feels odd to read that mighty Manchester United should have approached a date with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the way, say, Tony Pulis' Crystal Palace would.

But the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one. Lacking sufficient quality to play Chelsea at arm's length, Moyes needed to duck, weave and counterpunch.

Moyes should have been paying attention when Mourinho spoke of how easy it is to win 1-0. That result would have suited United fine.