Mourinho to Man Utd: A Chelsea Fan’s Perspective
So it has come to pass. José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix (as those who are partial to slamming a gram on Insta will now know he’s called) has become the manager of Manchester United. As a life-long Chelsea fan, I’ve been keen to point out over the last week or so that “I’m fine” and “I don’t really feel anything” about it. The truth is I probably feel everything but it can’t be boiled down to basic notions of happiness or sadness.
Though it might not seem like it to my millions of adoring Twitter followers (there are parts of this post which may or may not be accurate), I’ve tried to stay fairly neutral and reflective on JM’s move to pastures Northern. Partly because I’m told I’m a full grown adult who has nuanced emotions that can’t be boiled down to 140 characters, but primary because discussion between football folk usually becomes a dick measuring contest and I don’t have an away season ticket and, to my eternal regret, I wasn’t in Munich. So while they in no way represent every Chelsea fan, I’d like to think my thoughts will resonate with a select few.
Winning the League
To understand the place Jose Mourinho holds at Chelsea and among the fan base, first you need to understand our history. Now, for some that’ll raise a smirk accompanied with, “Well, you ain’t got none, Dave.” But as we’re all adults here, I’m sure you’ll have no problem with me pointing out we’re the only London club to still be in our original home, we had attendances of 75,000 as early as 1911 and we even won our first European trophy before Liverpool had those Famous European Nights™ at Anfield. Even if you don’t accept that as history, no one can take away we’re still the only team in London to win the European Cup. Anyway, I digress…
It is fair and true, however, that despite two FA Cup trophies, a League Cup and another Cup Winner’s Cup win in 1998 (no history!), we never truly believed we’d win the big one. Then Abramovich arrived and in 2004 he brought along Mourinho. For lack of eloquence, it all then went a bit mental.
When we won our first league trophy since 1955, none us really knew how to celebrate it. We were used to a certain level of success at the time having regularly made top 4 and numerous cup runs, but this was on another level. As such, the main spine, including Mourinho, Terry, Lampard, Drogba etc. will always hold a special place in our hearts.
We’re used to the managerial merry-go-round at The Bridge. And you know what? Most of the time, we brush off the anger it seems to cause most other fans because… well, we win European Cups in the process. But Mourinho isn’t just anyone – make no mistake he encapsulates everything that has come to be Chelsea in the modern era.
Even 5 years after his first stint at our helm, the 2012 Champions League Final win had Mourinho all over it. No other team in Europe could have won it the way we did – and I’d like to think that’s not the Blue specs talking. The belief and arrogance we needed all started with Jose.
The return in 2014 was glorious and we went on to win our 4th Premier League title – and given the flack we’d criminally been given all season – it was probably the sweetest of the lot. But then came Swansea at home, City away, Palace at home, Southampton at home, the categorical meltdown at West Ham, Liverpool at The Bridge and finally Leicester away. The lack of backbone simply wasn’t us and it wasn’t Jose Mourinho.
But while I could bore you and talk tactically, it’s probably more important to let you know where the God-like aura changed for me. It was the season before, Saturday 1st November 2014 to be exact, and we’d just beaten a club who like to think we’re rivals QPR. 2-1, Oscar with an outside-of-the-foot thunderbastard. Rather than tick off a potentially tricky tie as the important win it was, Jose decided to take a swipe at the Stamford Bridge crowd saying, “At this moment it’s difficult to play at home because playing here is like playing in an empty stadium.”
It might not seem like a lot but something should be made clear to those who don’t regularly attend football: Having someone who is paid vast amounts to be there criticise those who pay vast amounts to be there is not OK. At all. Whatever you think of Chelsea’s support generally, those comments understandably rubbed a lot of us up the wrong way. It was akin to that constant niggle you get at the back of your head when deep down you know your girlfriend isn’t into you as much as you’re into her.
It could/did get brushed off by some as one of those famed Jose psychological ‘wake up calls’. That would make sense if he didn’t say similar again. And then again on the day we actually won the title – instead of celebrating he decided to criticise us and also go out of his way to lavish praise on Palace’s travelling black-hooded tambourine-beating ‘Ultras’.
The Question Marks
Jose Mourinho is the greatest manager working on the planet today. Or at the very least in the top two alongside Guardiola. But as much as he brings success, he brings problems. I personally needed the second stint to wake up to it but the man just can’t help himself.
The dismissal – and it was a dismissal – of Eva Carneiro can’t be underplayed. While we’ll only know what actually happened when an autobiography is released, it’s clear the dressing room didn’t take well to it. Mourinho’s obsession with referees and the media caused unnecessary distractions and drama too. While much of it was probably justified, your manager should not be causing palpable tension on the pitch between referees and players. It literally had the opposite effect he thought it would. We were getting less decisions and worse press. At some point that has to affect the players.
Now we get to Mourinho’s alleged Three Year Syndrome, which is no longer pure conjecture pedalled by loathing Barca fans and desperate Gooners. As someone who’s loved him more than most, I think there might actually be something to in it after all. The chaos has to take its toll.
The sacking last December still splits much of the fan base. But as always with these things – it’s complicated. And when all’s said and done, we were 1 point above relegation a week before Christmas having just walked the league. Nobody survives that, special or not. He’d lost the dressing room and as frustrating as it is, sacking off 23 players isn’t an option.
You’ll find a few, probably a minority, who think the move to United is some sort of Shakespearean betrayal. While I don’t subscribe to that – we sacked him twice remember – there is the acceptance he’s probably wanted the United job for a while. The constant reminder he’s bezzies with Ferguson and the remarks about the ‘rapport’ he had with the United fans (which is clearly plain garbage – they shouted “do one” as much as anyone else) all pointed to the fact he knew he couldn’t rule himself out of the gig by picking the wrong battle.
Now us Chelsea fans are left refreshing his Facebook profile searching for hidden clues to see if he’s moved on and happier without us. When he says United have a ‘mystique and a romance’ about them – does that mean we were never good enough? I just hope it’ll take him at least 3 months before he begins with the digs at Chelsea. But I’m not hopeful and that probably says a lot.
While the emotions are mixed, the over-riding feeling for me is simple. Thank you for everything, Jose. But we owe you nothing and you owe us nothing. There’s no unfinished business. It’s time to move on.