Since the final whistle blew late Saturday tea time the magician that is Jose Mourinho has once again started a controversy raging that touches the whole football world.
Mourinho rallied defiantly in his post-match interview, more against the critics he surely anticipated after Chelsea’s stern rearguard performance than any negative punditry that was actually forthcoming as perhaps surprisingly, most TV aficionados acknowledged the acumen and fighting qualities that hallmarked yet another determined, counter-attacking triumph for the Premier League’s Champions-elect.
Jose maintained everything had gone exactly to plan. Tactically he claimed, he, his coaching staff and players had sucked in everything they had expected from onetime mentor, Louis Van Gaal and the reborn Manchester United had to offer and blown it back out in their faces. At such times the lately reticent, apparently wounded, once media-darling and master of footballing strategy can show a different set of teeth. Like the snarling and unwell Jose who pounded the sky after Chelsea broke Anfield hearts on another hit and run raid back last April.
Indeed, if anyone needs convincing that the Chelsea of the latter-half of season 2014~2015 are truly deserving of their 10 point lead it must be their long-suffering financier Roman Abramovich who we understand still longs to see a ‘Barca-type football’ played consistently on the grass of Stamford Bridge and the equally long-suffering Chelsea fans who accepted a long way back they must always ‘walk alone’ but still secretly wonder what it must be like to see your club’s football adored.
Back in 1999 ‘the blues’ still awaited their 1st Premier title when they triumphed by 5 goals to nil to go top of the league in November against the team that would be eventually crowned champions the following May. Sir Alex Ferguson cites the humiliation of that resounding loss as the key motivation that drove Manchester United on to win their 6th Premier Title. Famously, straight after that historic demolishment, Gianluca Vialli, then Chelsea’s manager, rode on the back of a scooter to Heathrow to catch a plane to Italy for a family event rather than staying in London to prepare for their next important fixture.
No such distractions for Jose. Chelsea remain undefeated in the league since New Years Day when they were pulled and picked apart by a rampant Tottenham Hotspur and an inspired Harry Kane who put the magic 5 past Courtois. Was it that day and after that performance that Mourinho decided – ‘Enough and no further?’ Was it there and then he modified an outgoing, expansive tactic that had won a lot of admiring glances for one that would ‘get the job done’?
The early season game-plan had been found out and allowed 2 recent defeats. Jose recognised, as Sir Alex had back in 1999, something needed fixing and fast. At Stamford Bridge last Saturday night it was ‘the blues’ who had everything to lose, United who had everything to win. Now only the history books will truly show the importance of that win and not the manner of it.