As Chelsea took a significant step towards winning their fourth Premier League title in 11 years, much has been made of their 1-0 win over an ever improving Manchester United side.
A first half Eden Hazard goal was enough to secure all three points for Jose Mourinho’s men and send them into a commanding ten point lead at the top of the table with only six games left to play.
Only a meltdown of a monumental scale will prevent Roman Abramovic lending his yacht to John Terry for the summer.
Whilst Captain Terry led the Stamford Bridge celebrations, with his team mates beaming from ear to ear and the fans relentless in their chorus of “Chelsea Chelsea Chelsea” – there was a far more bewildered collection of players and staff in the opposition dressing room who would have been sitting there feeling extremely hard done by.
For their fifth game in a row, United boss Louis Van Gaal and his players had dictated everything about the football match; yet this time found themselves on a losing side and were brought back down to earth following a recently impressive spell of form and results.
Not many teams visit Stamford Bridge and dominate in such a way that the hosts are not only restricted a meagre 30% possession; but also have less than half the amount of shots and corners; yet you cannot help but believe this was all in the masterplan of Mourinho.
Whilst some describe it as boring, others describe it as lucky – you only have to journey back 12 months to a time in which Chelsea executed the same game plan in an absolutely perfect fashion.
So is it boring? Yes. Is it lucky? No chance.
On the 27th April 2014, the blues travelled to Anfield in a match which was billed as a title celebration for Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were on a 16 match unbeaten run and looked odds-on to pick up their first Premier League title in over 20 years – yet Chelsea, and in particular Mourinho, had their own ideas.
On that fateful day on Merseyside which will go down in history for one man slipping – Chelsea performed the perfect smash and grab, winning 2-0 having only 27% possession and 4 shots on target.
Liverpool that day, and to a lesser extend like United yesterday, huffed and puffed but could not blow the house down.
After this weekend’s encounter, both manager’s offered spikey press conferences with Van Gaal focusing on how his United side were the better team and deserved the win, whilst Mourinho took the focus away from his side’s poor showing and simply pointed out they were delighted to beat a massive club and go within eight points from winning the title.
There is no doubt that Mourinho putting Kurt Zouma into the middle of the park alongside Nemanja Matic was a negative move; aimed to prevent United playing their normal game as oppose to being a positive move for his own side’s attacking options – yet it worked well enough to ensure victory.
For Van Gaal – when evaluating the last two months, and in particular this defeat at the hands of Chelsea; perhaps he should feel flattered that Mourinho has set his team up to contain a now dangerous United outfit.
15 months ago United under David Moyes, the Red Devils went to the Bridge and lost 3-1 and were bullied for long spells of the game. No special tactics were employed to counter-act any United threats. Chelsea simply turned up, did not really get out of first gear and won comfortably on that day.
It has to be said that both sides missing key players can come away from this fixture feeling positive.
Of course this is easier for Chelsea as they won the match and will go on to win the title in the coming weeks.
Yet for Manchester United – this make or break cluster of fixtures which was set to define not only their season but the whole Van Gaal era, has done what it says on the tin.
It has established that under the former Holland boss, they are not only on the right path in terms of improvement in style of play and squad harmony, but also that even the biggest sides in the division whilst playing on their own patch fear them.
Come May there will be an open-top bus parade around West London and Chelsea will be celebrating their triumph, and rightly so – they’ve been the best team this season.
However with the progress United seem to be making with Van Gaal in charge, it would take a brave man to bet against the trophy returning to Manchester within a year.
Written by Nathon Woodhead who is the host of YouTube channel The Faithful TV. He can be found on Twitter @NathonW