The Mourinho masterstroke that effectively won Chelsea the title

Chelsea’s hopes of lifting the Premier League title all-but rested on the result of their home clash with Manchester United last weekend.

A win, which they got, has moved them to within touching distance of the trophy, while a defeat would have given Arsenal the momentum to get back into contention.

Although Eden Hazard proved the match winner for the Stamford Bridge side, Jose Mourinho’s largely conservative tactics were the main reason that United’s recent prolificacy in front of goal was blunted in West London.

Given that Louis van Gaal’s squad contains attacking talents such as Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Angel Di Maria, the fact that Marouane Fellaini is one of the Old Trafford outfit’s most important offensive outlets is something of an irony.

However, the former Everton star has been the bedrock of United’s recent upturn in fortunes, with his physicality acting as the spearhead for the Manchester club’s dominance.

The Belgian’s ability to win the ball consistently in the air and bring the likes of Ander Herrera and Juan Mata into play has been critical in the last six weeks.

Mourinho is an astute enough manager to recognise the threat of the giant Belgian and although his tactics will be deemed as overtly negative in some quarters, they were certainly effective at a time of the campaign where results are the only crucial detail.

The Portuguese coach’s decision to play Kurt Zouma in the heart of his midfield alongside regular enforcer Nemanja Matic certainly wasn’t an expansive move, but it may well have handed the Blues the Premier League title.

The young French centre-half has been a versatile and effective squad member this season and has a number of roles in the Chelsea contingent.

Against opposition with sprightly attackers, Mourinho has deployed the former St Etienne starlet at the back alongside John Terry to offer added pace.

Like in the Capital One Cup final against Tottenham, when the Blues are looking to close out the opposing midfield’s creative or influential players, Zouma has been used in the centre of the park.

Unlike the clash against Spurs at Wembley where the Frenchman was handed the job of closing down technical players such as Christian Eriksen and Ryan Mason, this time round it was a physical duel that Zouma needed to win.

Having his stature, aerial ability and defensive tendencies in the boiler room with Matic made Chelsea a much more compact side as a result.

Fellaini’s heroics against Liverpool and Tottenham were not replicated, with the former Everton man struggling to make his mark on the game like he did in previous outings.

Mourinho has been accused of ‘parking the bus’ in the past and his brand of football may not be the most scintillating in English football.

However, in a results-driven business, the Portuguese manager is deemed as one of the best around and his decision to play Zouma at the heart of his midfield proves just why.

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Top 50 Premier League appearances for Chelsea

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