When Portugal`s José Mourinho was the manager at Chelsea, the Blues were mean in defence and mean in attack, because the team won trophies by conceding fewer goals than their opponents although they scored fewer also. A typical Chelsea team under Mourinho’s management was like that of the first Manchester United team to win the inaugural Premier League title in 1992-93.
The defence was tight, conceding 31 goals with Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister at the heart of it, while Mark Hughes top scored with 15. Third-placed Norwich City had more goals scored against, 65 to 61, which illustrated the value of a Manchester United mean defensive unit that also had Paul Parker at right back and Denis Irwin at left back. The following season, 1993-94, saw United concede only 38 goals, with the same defense, although the addition of Eric Cantona, who`d won the last League Division One title with Leeds in 1991-92, and who got 18 goals compared to Hughes` 12, saw meanness at the back allied to devastating attack, which became the style for the future of the club under the stewardship of manager Alex Ferguson, and Manchester United also won the F.A. Cup Final that 1993-94 season against Glenn Hoddle`s Chelsea, with two penalties from Cantona settling the match in the 60th and 66th minutes, 2-0. A mistake by the defender, Frank Sinclair, allowed Hughes to slot home in the 69th minute, 3-0, and an unselfish pass from the midfielder, Paul Ince, when he could have scored easily, afforded centre-forward, Brian McClair, an unmissable chance in the 92nd minute, 4-0. Mourinho, in his first Chelsea season, 2004-2005, won the Premier League by conceding just 15 goals and his top scorer was a midfielder, Frank Lampard, with 13 goals. Lampard was top scorer with 16 in 2005-2006 and Chelsea conceded only 22 goals as they again won the title in the style of that United team of 1992-93, which won by having the meanest defence and a lethal, though unprolific striker, Mark Hughes.
Bizarrely, Chelsea hadn`t won the league since 1950, and 2006-07 was the last for Mourinho at Chelsea, who had given them two league championships in his first two seasons but, despite winning both the F.A. Cup, 1-0 against United, and the League Cup, Chelsea chairman, Russia`s Roman Abramovich, sacked Mourinho after what he seemed to view as a disappointing European Champions` Cup draw with Norway`s Rosenborg at home, 1-1, in the qualifying group. Replaced by Israeli, Avram Grant, Chelsea were runners-up to Manchester United for the second successive season after 2006-07 when, despite conceding the fewest goals, 24, United scored more through Portugal`s right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, 17, and England centre-forward, Wayne Rooney, 14. Chelsea centre-forward, Ivory Coast`s Didier Drogba, top scored with 20 in 2006-07, but in 2007-08 England`s marauder, Frank Lampard, was again top scorer with 10, while Ronaldo, 31, Rooney 12, and Argentina`s Carlos Tevez, 14, made sure United won the league. As fate would have it, Ferguson`s team would face Chelsea in the European Champions` League Cup Final and, after a Cristiano Ronaldo header, and a typical run and shoot from midfield by Frank Lampard, the game ended, 1-1, which meant a penalty decider. Chelsea`s England central defender, John Terry, infamously fell on his arse in the rain as he hit the post, which left winger, Ryan Giggs, to famously stroke home his spot-kick winner for the `Red Devils`, 6-5.
Jose Mourinho`s first season at Manchester United brought a first trophy. The team beat Southampton, 3-2, in the 2016-17 League Cup Final after a left winger, Jessie Lingard, scored United second goal in the 38th minute, 2-0. It was uncannily similar to his 110th minute extra time strike to win the F.A. Cup Final, 2-1, against Crystal Palace, the previous, 2015-16 season, after which former Dutch team manager, Louis Van Gaal, lost his tenure as United boss, because of his failure to win the league, a failure that had meant the end of retired Ferguson`s successor, Everton`s David Moyes, whose only measurable success was to win the English Shield with the championship-winning team he`d inherited in 2013 against the F.A. Cup winners, Wigan, 2-0, with a 6th minute header, and a 59th minute left-footed strike, after cutting in from the right, from Dutch center forward, Robin Van Persie, who`d been brought from Arsenal for £ 22. 5 million to score the 26 goals that spearheaded yet another successful United league campaign in what, through illness, became Ferguson`s retirement season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a Swedish center forward brought by Mourinho from Paris St. Germain, aged 34, and who finished the season top scorer with 17 goals, had opened the scoring in the 2017 League Cup Final, with a great free kick in the 19th minute, bent around the Southampton wall from well outside the penalty area. A brace from Italy`s striker, Manolo Gabbiadini, either side of half-time, in the 46th and 48th minutes, and who`d struck deftly each time he was played in a few yards from the goal`s mouth, levelled after Lingard put United ahead, 2-0, before Ibrahimovic`s header in the 87th minute, won it, 3-2.
Although Chelsea won the league title in 2016-17, and United finished sixth, it was with the fewest goals conceded, 29, a Mourinho trademark, and United`s end of the season was far from unhappy. Mourinho steered the team through to the Final of the UEFA Cup against Netherlands` club Ajax of Amsterdam, at the Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden. It was a game Ibrahimovic missed, because of a cruciate ligament knee injury incurred against Belgium`s Anderlecht at home in the quarter-final second leg at Manchester`s Old Trafford stadium, which saw the Swedish striker taken off in the 90th minute, although United won, 2-1, through an extra time goal from center forward, Marcus Rashford in the 107th minute, after drawing, 1-1, in Brussels. A 1-0 win away to Spain`s Celta Vigo meant that a 1-1 draw at home was enough to reach the Europa Cup Final against Ajax on May 24, 2017, which United won with a goal in the 18th minute from world`s most expensive midfield purchase, France`s Paul Pogba, and another from Armenia`s captain and right winger, Henrik Mkhitaryan, in the 48th minute. Pogba had been bought from Italy`s Juventus, and after he`d signed for the Italian club when he hadn`t renewed his contract at United for 2012-13. Four consecutive Serie A titles later, Pogba returned to Old Trafford for £ 89. 3 million to take his place in a starting line-up largely constructed by Mourinho`s predecessor, Dutchman Van Gaal, apart from Mkhitaryan, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the 2016-17 season for around £ 30 million, and Ivory Coast center back, Eric Bailly, an eventual adequate £ 30 million replacement for England`s much-missed Rio Ferdinand, who seemed to have left, without any attempt by the then manager, Van Gaal, to keep him, to join QPR for the 2014-15 season. Ecuador`s Antonio Valencia, bought by Ferguson from Wigan for £ 16 million as a right winger for the 2009-10 season, but switched to right back by Ferguson`s successors, was captain, and although Bailly was absent through suspension, England`s Chris Smalling, another survivor from the Ferguson era, proved once again that he was an excellent stand-in in an emergency. Italian Matteo Darmian, bought from Torino for around £ 13 million by Gaal for the 2015-16 campaign, was at left back, and Daley Blind was the other central defender, bought from Ajax for around £ 14 million for the 2014-15 term, completed the defence for what had been the meanest Premier League outfit in 2016-17.
Without Ibrahimovic, Mourinho opted for the three-man midfield that had been the hallmark of his days at Chelsea; Pogba. Spain`s Ander Herrera bought from Athletic Bilbao for the 2014-15 season for around £ 29 million, and Marouane Fellaini, brought from Everton by Moyes at the commencement of his year-long 2013-14 tenure.
Mourinho went for two wingers, Mkhitaryan was on the right, and Spain`s Juan Mata, bought from Chelsea for £ 37. 1 million in January 2014 during Mourinho`s second spell there as manager, where he`d been taken by Mourinho`s predecessor, Portugal`s André Villas-Boas, from Valencia for 2011-12, was on the left. While at Chelsea for the second time, Mourinho won the league and League Cup double in 2014-15, with his usual meanness in terms of goals conceded in the title race, 32, although the Blues were more balanced with Belgium`s Eden Hazard, 14 goals, performing the role that Lampard had in Mourinho`s earlier sojourn at Stamford Bridge, while Spain`s Diego Costa, struck 20 times. Mata, however, was deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho, who preferred the Brazilian Oscar, although the pair were to be reunited at Old Trafford with great success.
Mourinho`s center forward for the Europa Cup Final was Marcus Rashford, who’d emerged as an 18 year old in 2015-16 and played in the F.A. Cup Final win over Palace, 2-1, while England center forward, Wayne Rooney, who`d been captain that day, and for whom goals and appearances in the first team were becoming scarcer since the emergence of teenager, Rashford, and the arrival of Ibrahimovic in the twilight of a great career, was on the substitutes` bench. Pogba`s opening goal was scored from well outside the `keeper`s area after an infield pass from Fellaini on the right to the centre of the pitch where Pogba struck a left-footed shot that rose into the top centre of the net beyond and through the `keeper`s despairing grasp. After half-time Mkhitaryan hooked in a close-in shot, falling backwards, and with his right foot, 2-0, from a corner headed towards goal by Smalling, and that was the way it stayed. Manchester United had won the UEFA/Europa cup that had eluded them for so long and had now won all of Europe`s major soccer tournaments.