Leaving the ground following the Chelsea victory over United it was hard not to feel anything but delight. This was a methodical performance, the team completely negated one of the league's in form sides, who a week ago put four past Manchester City. On this occasion, United looked lost on the ball, Kurt Zouma marked Marouane Fellaini out of the game from the first minute and despite having 70 percent of possession throughout the match, the team in red looked bereft of ideas.
The majority of their possession was at the feet of a defensive trio in Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia at the half way line. There was not a single clue between them as to how they could breakdown Chelsea, now that lobbing the ball up to Fellaini was no longer an option. In the end the two centre backs decided pot shots from thirty yards out would be the best solution. It really wasn't.
With that in mind, it came as somewhat of a shock to read on my timeline that Chelsea fans should feel embarrassed by the performance or that for some reason we should not be proud of that win. It wasn't the performance of champions. These are the rambling of football's alleged purists, rooting out the evil, enemy of the game that is Jose Mourinho. In reality, the problem isn't Mourinho, it is the self-righteous, naive mind that thinks a pragmatic performance is anything but the right way to play football.
Football is, after all, the only sport that so thoroughly chastises those who excel at defending. For those who need reminding, defending is half the game. Imagine a boxer being criticised for not allowing his opponent to hit him. Floyd Mayweather, boxing's most technically proficient fighter, will hereby be known as "The Anti Boxer". Imagine thinking the Seattle Seahawks are an enemy of the NFL as opposed to the embodiment of it. Or that San Antonio's empire in the Tim Duncan era should be forgotten because they can defend their own half of the court.
It is strange that those who champion the right way of playing football fail to understand the importance of strategy. It is absurd to think that there can be no satisfaction in grinding out victories. Tell that to the 40,000 inside Stamford Bridge and every single one of them would laugh: that performance was nothing short of incredible. The scoreline was the perfect reflection of how the game panned out -- only one team ever looked like they'd find a way though. It is no surprise that even with only 30 percent possession the next best chance in the game aside from the goal fell to Chelsea and Eden Hazard when his acrobatic effort struck the post from a tight angle.
As a winner, Mourinho's methods are second to none. The idea that his approach to big games is that of a small club mentality is so unbelievably narrow minded, that it pains me to see people failing to understand the beauty of it. This is not the same style of play as an underdog, praying that through sheer force of will and desperate defending, they can keep the onslaught at bay for ninety minutes. Sure, there are the odd occasion when this will work out in their favour, when Mourinho classed West Ham's football as 19th Century, it felt like a compliment more than an insult. Yet, at the end of the day that result was as much down to good fortune and a heroic effort in goal by Adrian than anything else. West Ham's subsequent efforts at stifling the Chelsea attack with mere numbers has failed. It is why Brendan Rodgers' comment that "Defending is easy" was so way off the mark (much like the rest of the league's challenge for the title).
I for one think it is sad to see so many disregard half of the game in the way they do towards defending. Sure, free flowing, attacking football is perhaps at its best in this generation. However, a failure to admire those who stand against the tide, beating away everything thrown at them is not a sign of championing the beautiful game, it is blind ignorance.
Soaking up pressure for ninety minutes in the way that Mourinho's sides do, is not easy. It takes an unbelievable amount of discipling and skill to perform. Mourinho's so called negative tactics have yielded unparalleled positive results. Ultimately it boils down to efficiency. Mourinho believes that his side can do more with 30 percent of the ball than the opposition can do with 70%. Most of the time, he's right. Most of the time, he wins. This isn't David vs. Goliath, this is the Ali "Rope-a-Dope" played out to perfection. This is a masterclass in counter punching.
It is rather comical that Mourinho is portrayed as a pantomime villain, the Dementor of football, sucking the life force out of the game. While, his approach may not be easy on the eye for a neutral, it is not Mourinho's fault that the purist brigade are out with their pitchforks and torches after every victory he oversees, failing to appreciate the complexity of the game. Mourinho positions his players as if they were pieces on a chessboard. You have to react to the opposition, life is a series of checks and balances. In football no one understand this better than The Special One.