Man Utd down and out of title race after Chelsea stroll
Samuel Eto'o back to his best as he fells the champions with Stamford Bridge hat-trick
Chelsea 3 Manchester United 1. A hat-trick from Samuel Eto'o kept Chelsea breathing down the neck of Arsenal and Manchester City, while condemning United to another wretched defeat. Not only were the reigning league champions comprehensively beaten by the Blues, they also had Nemanja Vidic sent off for a wild injury-time challenge on Eden Hazard. Rafael should have followed his captain down the tunnel after a two-footed lunge on Gary Cahill but by then perhaps referee Phil Dowd felt sorry for United and produced only a yellow.
It was certainly a day for the impartial to pity David Moyes and his men. Javier Hernandez's goal on 78 minutes was nothing more than a consolation with Chelsea on cruise control after the game had been wrapped up half an hour earlier. Eto'o followed up his two first-half strikes with a third goal on 49 minutes as Chelsea brushed aside their illustrious visitors' with ease.
It was always going to be tough ask for United to get a result at Chelsea, what with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie out injured, and the club enduring its worse run for years.
United have now lost four of their last five games in all competitions and on Wednesday host Sunderland in the return leg of the League Cup semi-final. Two-nil down from the first leg, Moyes knows that victory is vital if he is to stop United's season disintegrating before his eyes.
Swansea dumped them out of the FA Cup in the third round earlier in the month and they are now 14 points behind leaders Arsenal and facing up to the possibility that they will fail to qualify for next season's Champions League for the first time since 1995.
"We did not defend well enough... so we can only blame ourselves for that," admitted Moyes, who was of the opinion that Vidic's foul warranted only a yellow. In that regard he was in the minority, as he was also in declaring that his team could take positives from the defeat. "We showed a lot of good things today," he said. "What we won't do is throw the towel in until we can't get there. The job is to try and win the title."
For Chelsea there was nothing but delight on a day when manager Jose Mourinho celebrated his 100th Premier League victory. Calling it a "big win", the Special One then paid tribute to Chelsea's hat-trick hero: "I think this game was a bit of a contradiction to other games," he told reporters. "Normally we produce and produce and then it is hard for us to score, this time with the first shot we scored. The second goal was the killer in the box I know from many years ago and it looks like Samuel Eto'o is coming back [to his best]."
United still look a long way from their best and in Mourinho's eyes their chances of winning the title are all but over. "It is hard, they are 14 points behind Arsenal, 13 behind Manchester City and 12 from us," he replied. "Maybe one team collapses but for three to collapse is difficult, so for them I think it is the fight to finish in the top four."