Football

Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal start next great battle

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When Manchester United visited Chelsea at the weekend it was a match between two teams that played with a completely different mindset.

History told us that it was always going to be a tough ask for Louis van Gaal's team to come away with any points from Stamford Bridge, particularly with Jose Mourinho in charge of Chelsea.

In my last article I said that going into this match Manchester United's biggest threat was not going to be Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas or Oscar but perhaps their own psychological barrier that until now has often cost them dearly particularly at this venue.

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The way this match panned out, I am glad to say that Manchester United broke that barrier down with their calm and composed performance from the first whistle until the last. But one thing that they could not break down was the brilliant and resolute wall of blue that stood strong and thwarted every attack that United could conjure.

It became clear relatively early on that United would be enjoying the possession and Chelsea were going to allow it as they sat back and waited to hit them on the counter. In the absence of Michael Carrick, it was Ander Herrera who was given the responsibility to shield the defence and support the attack and he played that role admirably and tirelessly.

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Another hero of the day was Paddy McNair, who played as if he had never left from the starting XI. He showed supreme confidence and strength to not only keep a player of Didier Drogba's calibre in check but also tested Thibaut Courtois with a stinging strike.

It was clear that Chelsea had a game-plan to sit back and hit them on the break and it happened just once in the entire match, but it was just one chance they needed as Eden Hazard exchanged passes with Oscar and slid the ball between De Gea's legs for the games only goal.

Manchester United claimed it should not have stood after a foul on Radamel Falcao, but there was to be no reprieve and Chelsea had something to hold onto.

This resulted in Manchester United playing with more intensity and intent in search of an equaliser, but the Blues worked efficiently and did a professional job, soaking up and withstanding the waves of pressure.

Radamel Falcao should have made the most of the dominance his side enjoyed, but hit the post after escaping the off side trap. The Colombian should have scored but nothing seems to be going his way this season.

Late on Van Gaal brought on Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj for one last push but Chelsea never looked like conceding and saw off the remainder of the match and, in the process, took a huge step towards being crowned the champions once more.

Positives for both the Teams

While Jose Mourinho claimed after the match that his team had planned for this type of match and that they had all the Manchester United players in their pocket, the simple truth is that, for the first time in a very long time, the side in red dominated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

They played with purpose and, even without some key players, managed to perform at a sustained high level of excellence, with Van Gaal claiming it to be his side's best display of the season.

The most refreshing thing to see from Manchester United was the belief that the players have shown in their manager's philosophy and the way they are starting to execute it in the big matches, something for which Van Gaal deserves all the credit.

Chelsea on the other hand played like true champions and that is why the title will be theirs. A lot of people have criticised Mourinho for his style but nobody can argue that it is effective and, if executed properly, as his team has done for most of the season it gets result and in this day and age it's all about results.

It's not about who plays the most attractive football but about who gets the more points. The ends justify the means and Mourinho is the master of that school of thought. For him it's all about the statistics at the end that matter the most.

Van Gaal is from a different school, he likes to control the game and, for him, how his team plays is equally important as winning. Manchester United are starting to look like his team now and they are getting better with each game.

Chelsea are the finished article in their style of play and for them its all about doing that week in week out, while Manchester United are taking huge strides towards the perfection that their manager craves for, but there is still some way to go before they can truly master this art.

There's more to come next Season

I always knew that this season was going to be too early for Van Gaal to turn Manchester United into title contenders but the the recent performances suggest a return to the Champions League next season will be theirs.

This was the target for the season and, next term, with more experience and belief along with a few big arrivals in the summer transfer market Manchester United will be a force to reckon with.

Chelsea will surely react in the same manner and they will keep evolving. They are champions elect but, as Mourinho said in his post match interview on Saturday, "football is not about 'ifs' and 'almosts', it is about mathematics."

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season you can be assured that this rivalry between Mourinho and Van Gaal is only going to get more intense, something that has been missed since a certain Scottish manager retired from the Old Trafford club.

I hope to see Manchester United back in Champions League and face Chelsea in the final next season. Now that will be a match nobody would miss. It has happened before and we all remember how that turned out.

The pupil may have evolved into something much more stronger but the master is called the master for a reason. Bring it on.

Who has the best chance of winning the title next season: Chelsea or Manchester United?

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Jose Mourinho
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal
Chelsea

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