LONDON, January 20 – Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho declared Manchester United’s Premier League title defence over after his side’s 3-1 victory on Sunday left the defending champions 14 points behind leaders Arsenal.
Samuel Eto’o scored his first Chelsea hat-trick to move his side back to within two points of first place, and with United so far off the pace, Mourinho says it will be almost impossible for them to retain their title.
“It is hard. They are 14 points behind Arsenal, 13 behind Manchester City, and 12 from us,” he said.
“Maybe one team collapses, but for three to collapse is difficult, so for them I think it is the fight to finish in the top four.
“They will do that with their pride and tradition and fight and hopefully they win against the other contenders, because now we do not play against them (United) in the league.”
Chelsea had been on the back foot until Eto’o’s deflected shot put them ahead in the 17th minute and United manager David Moyes agreed with Mourinho’s assessment that the visitors “started better than us”.
“We did not deserve to be 2-0 down at half time,” Moyes said.
“We had a little bit of bad luck with the first one, but we can’t blame anyone else but ourselves for the other two.
“We did not defend well enough and did not get a chance like Chelsea got to score, so we can only blame ourselves for that.”
United had captain Nemanja Vidic sent off in stoppage time for a scissor tackle on Eden Hazard, while Rafael da Silva was shown a yellow card for a two-footed lunge at Gary Cahill moments later.
Moyes felt that Vidic’s dismissal was harsh, but he conceded that Rafael may have been fortunate to escape a red card.
“I thought Vidic’s wasn’t a sending off, but I think Rafa’s could have been a sending-off,” he said.
Eto’o twice punished United for inattentive defending at set pieces, doubling the hosts’ lead shortly before half-time after the visitors failed to clear a corner and then hooking home early in the second half after Cahill was granted a free header at a corner.
Mourinho had warm words for the 32-year-old Cameroon striker, having previously been critical of his performances following his move from Anzhi Makhachkala at the start of the season.
“The second goal was the killer in the box I know from many years ago,” said the Chelsea manager, who previously worked with Eto’o at Inter Milan.
“It looks like Samuel Eto’o is coming back.”