Jose Mourinho must end Chelsea hoodoo to avoid another nail in his coffin at Manchester United

James Robson

Even after Alexis Sanchez’ dramatic 90th-minute winner the whispers continued.

Jose Mourinho was on his way out of Manchester United. Within 24 hours of 3-2 win against Newcastle, some said.

United had already spent the eve of the match desperately trying to quash reports their under pressure manager would be sacked regardless of the result, so his departure during the international break seemed unlikely, even his position remain precarious.

Such talk will continue until Mourinho can dramatically turn his side’s fortunes around.

And Saturday’s clash with Chelsea signals the start of another make-or-break week. He’s getting used to them.

It will be some time before Mourinho can afford to lose another game without his future being thrown into serious question. And Stamford Bridge is just about the last place he’d want to start such a pivotal week in United’s season – in his Old Trafford reign.


Photo: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

It will be some time before Mourinho can afford to lose another game without his future being thrown into serious question. And Stamford Bridge is just about the last place he’d want to start such a pivotal week in United’s season – in his Old Trafford reign.

Mourinho’s former manor has not been a happy hunting ground since he was shown the door by Roman Abramovich nearly three years ago.

In three visits as United manager he has been on the losing side every time – and is still to celebrate a goal in front of his once adoring fans, who now label him Judas.

But the problem is not specific to Mourinho.

United have not won at Chelsea since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge – winning 3-2 in October 2012.

Even then it was a case of one out three, with Ferguson’s side crashing out of both domestic cups in West London that same season.

Wins are a rare commodity for United in these parts – with or without Mourinho. And judging by the form of both sides heading into Saturday’s lunchtime kick off, Chelsea begin the game very much favourites.

Maurizio Sarri has taken Stamford Bridge and the Premier League by storm.

It will be Mourinho’s first taste of Sarri-ball – and the expansive methods that are bringing the best out of players whose woeful form ultimately cost the former Chelsea manager his job just months after delivering his third Premier League title for the club.

Comparisons are already being made between Mourinho’s final days at Chelsea and the current crisis gripping United.

Rifts are running through the dressing room, while performances on the pitch go from bad to worse.

The dramatic 3-2 win against Newcastle eased the pressure somewhat. But it only disguised the fact United trailed winless, relegation-threatened opponents 2-0 on home soil and could have been even further behind if not for a wonder save by David de Gea and referee Anthony Taylor’s failure to spot Ashley Young handle in his own box.

Probable line-up


Here's how we expect Manchester United to line-up at Stamford Bridge:

4-3-3: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Fellaini, Matic, Pogba; Martial, Lukaku, Rashford

The problems at Old Trafford remain – which is why games against Chelsea and Juventus in the space of four days have the potential to be a springboard or nail in the coffin for Mourinho.

He retains the support of United’s hierarchy for now – but the fear within the club is that events will overtake them.

The manner in which his side were outplayed for three quarters of two games against West Ham and Newcastle suggests Chelsea will be a bridge too far, let alone a Juve team spear-headed by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Eden Hazard is arguably in even better form than the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. And while the Belgian spoke fondly of his time with Mourinho in recent days, he will not be so generous on the pitch.

Photo: Reuters

Stopping Hazard will be United’s priority, while breaking the metronomic rhythm of Jorginho’s passing will also figure highly in Mourinho’s planning.

That the two players best suited to handling the Chelsea duo – Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard – are recovering from injuries, makes Mourinho’s job all the more difficult.

Herrera produced a masterclass in man-marking when nullifying Hazard in a 2-0 win for United at Old Trafford two seasons ago, while Lingard is the perfect player to ‘get about’ Jorginho.

But containing Sarri’s side is only part of the problem.

Mourinho must also find a way to finally break his side’s Stamford Bridge duck.

Romelu Lukaku has increasingly found himself a scapegoat in United’s troubled start to the season – and United will need the former Chelsea striker to rediscover his scoring touch after six games without a goal.

His longest barren run since moving to Old Trafford was a seven-game spell last season.

The seventh game in that sequence was the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on November 5.

If history repeats itself, the whispers over Mourinho’s future will only grow louder.