A reminder that Jose Mourinho had it a bit easier last time around

Richard Heathcote

Eventually, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo became superstars. Before that, Manchester United was in a bit of a transitional phase.

By the end of Jose Mourinho's tenure at Chelsea, Manchester United had a squad that was comparable to his. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were no longer talented youngsters, but world class stars. Patrice Evra was a United player. Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick were healthy and pretty good. Nemanja Vidic was one of the best defenders in the world. United were formidable in 2007 and still are.

But at the beginning of the 2004-05 Premier League season?

Alan Smith made 22 starts and 31 appearances for Manchester United in the Premier League that season. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney only combined for 16 league goals. Liam Miller and Eric Djemba-Djemba didn't play much that season, but Quinton Fortune (seriously) had 12 starts and 17 total appearances in the Premier League.

Chelsea's starting XI for that game: Cech; Bridge, Gallas, Terry, Ferreira; Smertin (!), Makelele, Lampard, Geremi; Drogba, Gudjohnsen. Also less than impressive, but give me Alexey Smertin over Eric Djemba-Djemba or Liam Miller any day.

Just a reminder that the Premier League used to be a lot different, and Jose Mourinho is facing a slightly tougher task this time around.

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