'Defending so deep they were almost in Craven Cottage, let alone Stamford Bridge, Chelsea scrapped and scraped their way to three undeserved points here yesterday. Jose Mourinho's promise to supporters about "let's have some fun" was presumably referring to after the game.
In keeping with the afternoon's fare, Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson shared a bottle of cheap Argentine Shiraz afterwards that was anything but vintage. Seeking to protect Eidur Gudjohnsen's early goal, Chelsea and their coach were consumed with caution. Italian tactics prevailed, the Blues becoming the Azzurri. Chelsea's commanding new keeper, Petr Cech, resorted to time-wasting as United's siege intensified. One of Euro 2004's most impressive stoppers, Ricardo Carvalho, was introduced by Mourinho into midfield to kill off the match. Far from pretty. Chelsea's leading contributors were, fittingly, two defensively-minded midfielders, the outstanding Claude Makelele and the debut-making Russian, Alexei Smertin. This pair gave Chelsea the midfield steel that United, for all their pressure in the central third, could not buckle. Set against Arsenal's earlier dynamism at Everton, Chelsea clearly have some developing to do.
No matter, Chelsea fans will mutter; never mind the quality, feel the quantity of points. This was an important victory for Mourinho and his players, particularly psychologically. However much this celebration of containment over entertainment may offend the purists, the end justified the defensive means. Mourinho needed to show he could live in the Premiership against one of his main rivals for the title. He had to prove to opposing managers like Ferguson that he was suited to the intensity of English football. Mourinho also took the relentless abuse of United's supporters, all standing behind him, as a compliment. Many people outside the Bridge would like to see this cocky newcomer trip up. He knew it, so he did everything to ensure his start was a winning one. He had arrived from Porto with glowing references, many proffered by himself, and such an ambitious man had to provide evidence that the hype was justified.'