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Saturday 17 November 2018

Sarri and Jose bring new twist to soap opera at Bridge

Under-pressure Mourinho faces another testing return to Chelsea

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho faces off with Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri (pictured) for the first time tomorrow
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho faces off with Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri (pictured) for the first time tomorrow
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (pictured) faces off with Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri for the first time tomorrow
Manchester United will be wary of the brilliant form of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard in tomorrow’s Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge

Of all the intriguing kitchen-sink dramas and emotive sub-plots created by football's gods of chance, the visit by Manchester United to Chelsea surely ranks as a soap opera worthy of rivalling Coronation Street.

Tomorrow, Jose Mourinho, the manager formerly known as The Special One, takes his faltering United squad to Stamford Bridge, the manor from where he once blazed through English football as bright as a new comet.

Mourinho's old dug-out will be occupied by the unlikely figure of a bespectacled 59-year old former banker who came to coaching late and has never won a major trophy.

This will be the first time Jose Mourinho meets Maurizio Sarri competitively and the stakes couldn't be much higher. Jose is under serious pressure. His job is on the line.

Torrid

Having surprised many by rejuvenating Chelsea, Maurizio is hoping to extend his team's unbeaten run. "We need to improve," he says.

Mourinho has been enduring a torrid time of late.

Having finished second last season, it was expected that Manchester United would present a challenge to rivals Man City this season.

Instead, amid acrimony and recrimination, United have had an uninspiring start to the season, losing three games and drawing one from eight.

The club that once dominated English football under Alex Ferguson is currently eighth in the table, wedged between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford.

Every Man Utd starting line-up is different. As Mourinho struggles to find a dependable combination, his expensive signings seem stuck in second gear.

Supporters who crave attacking football look longingly at how Chelsea have enthusiastically taken to their coach's philosophy, the high-tempo short-passing style that was dubbed "Sarrisimo" in Italy. His players delight in knowing he wants them playing in the attacking half of the pitch.

Sarri inherited a club that had finished fifth last season, thirty points behind winners Man City. When he arrived at Stamford Bridge in July, he announced: "I want to enjoy myself. With one or two adjustments we can try to play my football."

There hasn't been much fun at Old Trafford this season where Mourinho has been surly, petulant, angry and sarcastic. More worryingly for the club have been those times when he's appeared bewildered.

Dismayed

Unable to influence or control performances, he's sounded dismayed and, possibly, defeated, admitting at one stage: "Sometimes things are not just in the manager's hands."

Tomorrow's match will be a stern test.

Spurs are the only top club Man United have played this season and that didn't end well, with United suffering a 0-3 home defeat in August.

Mourinho has tested the patience of Ed Woodward but the executive vice-chairman knows he'll have to sanction a payoff of over £12 million if he sacks his manager. An embarrassing defeat tomorrow could provide the trigger.

While he hasn't won any important silverware, Sarri was voted Coach of the Year in Serie A two years ago and, with his unbeaten start to the season, is already making history at Chelsea.

Mourinho will need to draw on all his experience and guile if he's to avoid falling victim to "Sarri-ball."

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