Chelsea heaped more misery on David Moyes by recording a convincing 3-1 victory over his Manchester United side at Stamford Bridge - with all the goals coming from Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o.
The 32-year-old demonstrated exactly why Jose Mourinho brought him to Stamford Bridge at the end of the summer transfer window, scoring two goals in the first half and another after half-time to keep the Blues two points behind league-leaders Arsenal in third place.
United, who scored a consolation goal through substitute Javier Hernandez and had their captain Nemanja Vidic sent off in stoppage time for a dangerous challenge on Eden Hazard, now find themselves 14 points off the Gunners - and six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool.
Incidentally, the away side did not look like a team short on confidence during the opening 15 minutes of the match.
Indeed, it was Moyes’ men who fashioned the first clear-cut opportunity of the match, when in the opening two minutes Ashley Young forced a smart stop from Petr Cech after playing a neat one-two with teammate Danny Welbeck.
United continued to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, but their failure to capitalise on their early dominance was ruthlessly punished by the lively Eto’o, who gave Chelsea a precious 1-0 lead with a deflected strike.
The Cameroon international, who Mourinho managed to superb effect at Inter Milan, skipped past the static Phil Jones before firing a left-footed strike which deflected off Michael Carrick and looped over the helpless David de Gea.
That goal handed Chelsea’s confidence a timely boost - and the hosts soon looked markedly stronger in every area of the pitch.
However, United felt they could have had a penalty midway through the half, when Danny Welbeck appeared to be caught by Cesar Azpilicueta before firing at Cech from close range.
Referee Phil Dowd waved play on - and minutes later Chelsea had doubled their advantage courtesy of that man Eto’o again.
The former Barcelona striker capitalised on some woeful Manchester United defending - and some poor goalkeeping by De Gea - to effectively wrap up the points for the west London outfit there and then.
The Chelsea supporters, to add insult to injury, began a chorus of “David Moyes, we want you to stay” - and the beleaguered United boss must have known that, without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie on the pitch, his side’s chances of salvaging anything from the match in the second half were virtually nil.
And so it proved. Eto’o put the final nail in United’s coffin minutes after the restart with a close-range tap-in after Cahill’s header was saved on the line by De Gea.
Chelsea had chances to heap further embarrassment on Moyes - Ramires, Willian and Hazard all went close to scoring goal number four - but it was United who netted the fourth goal of the match.
Hernandez latched on to a scuffed Phil Jones shot to make the scoreline slightly more respectable for the Premier League champions, whose hopes of securing a top-four finish appeared to suffer a significant blow this afternoon.
United were humiliated yet further in stoppage time when Vidic was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Hazard.
While there was more reason for Chelsea fans to smile when, in the closing stages of the match, Nemanja Matic entered the fray after completing his move from Benfica.
Will Moyes follow suit and sign the midfielder Manchester United are crying out for before the end of the January transfer window?