José Mourinho would have been hoping to prove a point to his former employers when taking Manchester United to Stamford Bridge, but it was a blue Sunday for the Portuguese coach as his side were beaten 4-0 by Chelsea in a thoroughly one-sided Premier League encounter.
The United manager made only one change to the side that drew with Liverpool in their last Premier League outing six days ago, with Jesse Lingard — a scorer against Fenerbahçe in the Europa League on Thursday — coming in for Ashley Young.
If, going into the game, Mournho’s plan was to park the bus and focus on not conceding, a rapid re-think was required; inexplicably slack defending saw the Red Devils 1-0 down after just 30 seconds.
The away side failed to deal with a hopeful ball forward. Pedro, played onside by Daley Blind, took advantage of the napping visitors’ defence to round de Gea and slot into the empty net.
United tried to hit back quickly. After eight minutes, Antonio Valencia found a pocket of space down the right and stood a cross up to the back post for Ibrahimovic, but the Swede couldn’t keep his header down.
Chelsea were soon back on the front foot. Eden Hazard flashed a shot just wide from a corner, and N’Golo Kanté was buzzing around, winning possession and linking play.
And it was Kanté who won the corner that led to Chelsea’s second after 21 minutes. When the corner was deflected back towards the United goal, Gary Cahill, having pulled away from Chris Smalling, found himself with the freedom of Stamford Bridge to smash the ball in from five yards.
Marcus Rashford tried to pull one back with a shot from 18 yards after more good work by Valencia, but the England striker’s effort was blocked and cleared.
Minutes later it was almost 3-0, when Pedro robbed possession from Blind. The Spaniard looked to cross low for Diego Costa but de Gea blocked with his feet. Then Hazard beat Blind for pace and did manage to find Costa at the near post but de Gea was again on hand to save.
United went close at the other end when Thibault Courtois could only parry Ander Herrera’s shot into the path of Lingard. But the Belgian stopper recovered quickly to block the United player’s effort.
After a frantic opening half-hour, Chelsea settled into their compact defensive shape and challenged United to break them down.
With five minutes to go before the break, David Luiz was lucky not to be sent off for a high challenge on Marouane Fellaini; the Brazilian escaped with only a booking.
In stoppage time at the end of the half, Eric Bailly drove into the penalty area before being tackled by Cahill. The ball broke lose to Valencia, whose cross fell to Rashford on the edge of the area, but the 18-year-old scuffed his shot off target.
Mourniho wasted no time in changing things up at half-time. Off went Fellaini with former Chelsea player Juan Mata brought on. The switch appeared to facilitate a shift to 4-4-2 for United with Marcus Rashford pushing up alongside Ibrahimovic.
Costa had the ball in the net three minutes into the new period, but the former Atlético Madrid striker was rightly called offside.
To compound United’s woes, Bailly was forced off through injury and replaced by Marcos Rojo after 52 minutes; Blind moved to centre-back and the Argentinian slotted into the left-back role.
Lingard then stung the palms of Courtois with a long-range effort as the visitors began to gain some momentum as the hour mark approached.
But Chelsea remained a serious threat on the counter and when Hazard found space on the left, United stood off as he played a one-two with Kanté before sliding the ball into the bottom corner to make in 3-0 after 62 minutes.
Mourinho made his final change after the third goal, with Anthony Martial replacing Lingard.
The change in personnel brought about no change in United’s performance though, and after 70 minutes Kanté made it 4-0.
The Frenchman was given far too much space when cutting inside from the right towards the penalty area. Paul Pogba and Herrera made no effort to track Kanté and Smalling was easily beaten by a drop of the shoulder as the Chelsea midfielder moved through on goal. The former Leicester City man coolly finished beyond de Gea.
Pogba’s frustration was evidenced by his poor challenge on Nemanja Matic with 15 minutes to go; the £89 million man collected a booking.
Ibrahimovic almost netted a brilliant consolation goal when bringing down Herrera’s pass on his chest and rifling a snap-shot goalwards, but Courtois got down low to his left to make the save.
The final effort on target was a speculative shot from distance by Rojo which Courtois batted away. The final whistle soon followed, ending a humiliating afternoon for Mourinho and United.