Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said his risky tactical approach had been vindicated after his side stunned Premier League leaders Chelsea 2-0 on Sunday.
Facing his former club, Mourinho rested top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and charged Ander Herrera and Matteo Darmian with the task of man-marking Chelsea dangermen Eden Hazard and Pedro.
Chelsea were successfully nullified, failing to register a single shot on target in a league game for the first time since 2007, and now lead second-place Tottenham Hotspur by just four points.
“Maybe we didn’t ‘rest’ players ahead of Thursday (when United play Anderlecht in the Europa League), we just chose the team we thought was the best team,” Mourinho told Sky Sports at Old Trafford.
“We went to Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup with the same tactics (when United lost 1-0).
“The game was totally controlled with 11 players, only the decision that made us play with 10 men for the second half and 10 minutes in the first half gave Chelsea a chance to be dominant.
“We knew that playing this way would be very difficult for them.”
In United’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea last month Herrera was sent off in the first half after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Hazard.
This time he was United’s match-winner, setting up Marcus Rashford’s seventh-minute opener and netting with a deflected shot early in the second half.
Herrera, who denied deliberately handling the ball prior to setting up Rashford’s opener, said United’s display had been “almost perfect”.
Mourinho was goaded with chants of “Judas” during United’s FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge, but he said he took no special satisfaction from getting one over on his former club.
“I don’t feel extra joy at beating Chelsea,” he said.
“We beat the leader. It doesn’t matter if the leader is Chelsea or another. We beat them convincingly. Nobody can doubt our credit to win the game.”
Beaten manager Antonio Conte took responsibility for Chelsea’s defeat.
“They deserved to win because they showed more desire than us, more motivation,” said the Italian, whose side face Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-finals next weekend.
“In this case, the fault is the coach. It is mine. In this case I wasn’t able to do the right motivation.
“To play this type of game from now and until the end, we must have great enthusiasm, great motivation to try to reach the target.”