Chelsea played like champions but not matching 2005 team, says Gary Neville
Pundit hailed performance on The Gary Neville Podcast
Last Updated: 26/04/15 6:10pm
Chelsea have some work to do to match the levels of Jose Mourinho’s 2005 title-winning team, says Gary Neville.
Eden Hazard scored the winner as the Blues beat Manchester United 1-0 on Saturday Night Football to edge closer to their first Premier League title in five years.
The visitors had 70 per cent of the possession but Chelsea’s dogged performance was enough to secure victory to move 10 points clear at the top.
Mourinho’s side romped to the title 10 years ago, losing just once as they finished 12 points clear in a dominant season, but on The Gary Neville Podcast the Sky Sports pundit said, while there are similarities, this season’s squad has work to do to reach those levels.
“I think Chelsea will have to improve again, because I think the others will catch them up,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a Chelsea team like the first Chelsea team in 2005 that Mourinho had, but it’s a very good team that needs to improve to get to that next level.
“They were always so tough to play against, when you think of Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas, John Terry, Michael Essien in midfield, Frank Lampard and Claude Makalele.
“There’s a little bit of that coming back with Nemanja Matic and obviously the two centre-backs, Gary Cahill and Terry. The full-backs are very good defensively, the goalkeeper’s excellent as Petr Cech was first time round for Jose Mourinho.
“There are a lot of similarities – Arjen Robben is Hazard, Diego Costa is Didier Drogba first time round – there are some similarities building in this Chelsea team.”
Neville won eight Premier League titles with United, in a team which often managed to grind out a result despite not performing at its best.
The Sky Sports expert believes Chelsea’s display at Stamford Bridge was similar to that team, and it’s a trait shared by champions.
“It was a resolute performance from Chelsea,” he added.
“It was a team that knew what they needed to do during the game. They recognised that they probably couldn’t take Manchester United on punch for punch at football in passing terms, but they had the power, the strength, the determination and the physicality.
“They played like champions. There are times over the years where I’ve been part of championship-winning teams and it had to be ugly.
“Mourinho has no problem going out there and destroying games. You saw that with his substitutions in the end – he’s shameless in that sense, and why shouldn’t he be?
“You always felt the jab of Chelsea was keeping United at arm’s length, and that’s what the game was – United just couldn’t get past the jab.”