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When Sir Alex Ferguson was picking out which bottle of wine to serve up after Manchester United’s match with Chelsea this Sunday, he could not have expected that it wouldn’t be Jose สล็อต 888 he would be sharing it with. Instead, he will be offering a glass to Avram Grant, who has taken over at Stamford Bridge after the shock departure of The Special One this week, and it is not just his choice of wine that will be giving Ferguson extra consideration in the build-up.
He will have to wonder just what kind of Chelsea will show up at Old Trafford, because it will surely be a different beast to that which he would have expected had Mourinho still been in charge. Indeed, it has to be different, because Grant has been brought in to change the way Chelsea play, to make them more like Roman Abramovich wants them to be, which is to say, more like Manchester United. Or at least the United Abramovich saw in that legendary Champions League epic against Real Madrid, the game that reportedly convinced the Russian to splash out on a football club of his own.
Grant won’t be expected to mould the team into a stylish winning machine after just a couple of days in the job, but neither can he afford a morale-sapping defeat in his first game in charge, particularly with the club already on a downer after some poor results and particularly that sparsely-attended Champions League draw with Rosenborg on Tuesday night. Picking his new players up and turning them into a team who can go to Old Trafford and win with style is a big ask, but he’ll have to get used to that.
The need to balance entertainment with success was something that was weighing heavily on Mourinho’s shoulders this season, with the opening day 3-2 win over Birmingham City a sign that he was willing to at least try and appease his boss, but after a 1-1 draw at Anfield, the old pragmatism re-emerged with a 1-0 win at home to Portsmouth that left Abramovich highly displeased. When he stormed out of his seat during a 2-0 defeat at Villa Park, it was clear that Mourinho was getting close to exhausting the grace he had earned by winning so many trophies.
The final straw for all concerned was a dull Champions League draw this week, with Stamford Bridge only half-full as even the fans decided that it wasn’t worth turning up. With Abramovich and Peter Kenyon still looking to get Chelsea actually creating money rather than using it up, having the fans turned off by the style of football just wasn’t an option. But at the end of the day, it was all down to Abramovich, with Chelsea being his plaything. If he had wanted to watch chess matches, he would have bought a chess club. He wanted entertainment and Mourinho just wasn’t the man to provide it.
What he did bring was success and plenty of it, though not the European domination that his boss craved. Grant needs to somehow combine the strength and efficiency of Mourinho’s Chelsea with the excitement and flair that won Man United the league last season, and that is a very tall order indeed. This weekend will give us an idea of how he will go about it, but he could hardly have a more difficult start. The irony of the situation is that he’ll be going to Old Trafford to face a United team currently grinding out 1-0 wins in true Mourinho fashion.
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United are yet to score more than one goal in a game so far this season, scoring just six goals in eight games, but they have only conceded three in that time, so they will not be easy to break down for a side also struggling for goals. More worrying for Chelsea is that Cristiano Ronaldo showed signs of coming into form in Lisbon on Wednesday, while Ferguson now has Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha all available to play up front, so surely this run of goal-shy performances cannot last.
If they snap into form on Sunday and comfortably beat Grant’s Chelsea, Abramovich will certainly not enjoy it as much as that trip to Old Trafford back in April 2004 when United beat Real Madrid 4-3 (but were still eliminated from the Champions League). Nor would the Chelsea fans, who are unlikely to be swayed from their devotion to their manager, despite the poor attendance in midweek. Chelsea are entering a new era, but whether it is a brave new dawn or the beginning of the end for Roman’s Revolution, we’ll have to wait and see.