Rudderless Chelsea face Man United test

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LONDON, Sep 20 (Reuters) Managerless and injury-hit, Chelsea travel to champions Manchester United on Sunday in something of a spin after coach Jose Mourinho quit the club today.

The charismatic Portuguese, who led Chelsea to the title in 2005 and 2006, left Stamford Bridge ''by mutual consent'', said a club statement posted in the small hours.

Chelsea have looked a pale imitation of their former selves this season, struggling to display any authority or score many goals.

Without the talismanic Mourinho at the helm, they are likely to be in even bigger trouble at Old Trafford.

''Of course I am alarmed. I am not happy,'' said Mourinho, after Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Rosenborg Trondheim in the Champions League on Tuesday.

''We cannot score goals and secondly I have no good news from the medical department... so I have to fight with these players to make the team the best possible.'' The scale of the fight clearly got to him.

In addition to last season's top scorer, striker Didier Drogba, and midfielder Frank Lampard, Chelsea are without central defender Ricardo Carvalho and German midfielder Michael Ballack.

Without a win in three outings, Chelsea are fifth in the table after playing six games and scoring seven goals while United, who beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in the Champions League yesterday, have climbed to fourth after a disappointing start.

They are level on 11 points with third-placed Liverpool, two behind leaders Arsenal.

Like Chelsea, United have failed to sparkle and struggled to score goals. They have managed only four in six games but the return after suspension of Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo and the fitness of England striker Wayne Rooney has lifted confidence.

Rooney, however, knows that despite feeling fit enough to rejoin the fray he may be withheld until manager Alex Ferguson is certain he has fully recovered from a foot injury.

''I've been dying to play and I let the manager know I thought I was ready,'' he told the Manchester United Web site (www.manutd.com). ''He and the physios have been cautious. Rightly so because of the long season.'' Arsenal, flying high after seven wins from eight matches this season including a European drubbing of Sevilla, host struggling Derby County on Saturday when Liverpool entertain Birmingham City.

Both should win comfortably to open a gap at the top before Manchester City kick off in Saturday's later fixture at Fulham.

At the bottom of the table, Bolton Wanderers meet Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in a clash that may influence the futures of their respective managers Sammy Lee and Martin Jol, both of whom are under threat.

Reuters BJR DB1019

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