I know the last couple of years have been a rollercoaster for our relationship. As my boyhood idol, I was ecstatic when you returned to Chelsea as our new leader on 3rd June 2013. Your return brewed all sorts of nostalgia in my mind. Gluing myself to the television as Frank Lampard scored twice in Bolton to win our first title in 50 years, and watching you on the phone to your family. Revelling in your cheeky and antagonising press conferences; most notably in Europe as you squabbled with Barcelona’s Frank Rijkaard. I was at the 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge over the Catalans, and your comments had boiled a passionate atmosphere as we felt like soldiers in your army. How times have changed…
Your return started relatively well. A a 3rd placed finish and a Champions League semi-final appearance in your first season back was encouraging progress. A stunning squad over-haul in the summer transfer window of 2014 set you up for a steamrolling title win, running away with it and swatting away any competitors in only the manner you could. Our leader was back, and everything pointed towards a bright, blue future. You spoke openly about youth, contracts and the future directing both media and fans towards a paradisiacal image of a legacy. The rest is, unfortunately, a dark and grim history.
Fast forward through a whirlwind of physios, losses and Papy Djilobodjis, and here we are in 2017. We’ve broken up. Your colours are now red, after leaving your blue robes in a puddle of mud back in London. Luckily Italians have a way with fashion and we’ve found one of the best. He’s called Antonio and he’s taking us back to our best after seeing the embarrassing state in which he picked us up. You also picked up a limp former giant in Manchester United and were given a nice, healthy budget in which to rejuvenate your former enemies. Since then it’s fair to say we’ve experienced various levels of success.
“So as people told me many many times in the beginning of Mr Abramovich coming to Chelsea, Chelsea was buying the title. Now, all of them, they are buying the title, and it’s up to us to be strong and to fight them and obviously try to win the title again, even without the big investments.”
José Mourinho on other teams spending, 2015.
First things first, I’m in no way bitter about your move to Manchester. We sacked you for the second time, and in my eyes that removes our right to judge your next move. Yes, it hurts a little seeing you stand up for them but, in that sense, there’s no complaints from me. Despite the fact you once accused Chelsea’s rivals of ‘buying the title’, you spent millions to bring in Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Slight hypocrisy but we’d have all done the same. I was impressed with your purchases and predicted a revitalised and dazzling Manchester United to turn up in August.
Take a glimpse to the present day and I’m seeing quotes of yours criticising Chelsea’s defensive approach and style of play:
“Chelsea are a very good defensive team. They defend well and with lots of players and I think in this situation a very defensive team wins the title with counter-attack goals and set-piece goals, so I don’t think they’ll let it slip but football is football.”
José Mourinho, 11th February 2017.
I’d be forgiven for thinking that this type of analysis and criticism would be coming from a manager within a few points of us. It sounds like the typical mind-games that we’ve heard you utilise to defend us a million times before. Pick an aspect of a nemesis’ game and re-craft it as a negative feature that is as toxic to football as Sepp Blatter. Yet it was the contrary to this that prompted me to write this. Manchester United are in 6th place. Chelsea are 10 points clear in 1st place. 12 points separate the two teams. This is the obvious stuff though.
The ‘defensive’ Chelsea side have scored 52 goals this season, José, which amounts to 14 more goals than Manchester United’s 38. To put this into perspective, Everton have 40 goals, Bournemouth have 35 and (Tony Pulis’) West Brom have 34. To be fair to you Louis Van Gaal’s United had 32 at this point last year, but then again David Moyes’ United had 43. So when you look at the stats, this attacking house you’ve placed yourself in suddenly looks quite glassy.
Let’s give you another chance and check out the other aspects of your analysis. In terms of counter attacking goals, Chelsea have 4 so far this season, and United have 0. This adds substance to your claims, yet not since 2013 have United scored more that 2 counter-attack goals in a season. Football is about identities and Chelsea and United are distinctively different. Everyone relates Manchester United with the dominant Sir Alex Ferguson days of piling endless pressure on for 90 minutes, which worked for them brilliantly until Fergie left and they lost their cutting edge. Their attacking pressure lost its substance and quickly became empty possession around the opposition’s half. You yourself even spotted that:
“This is a game with two goals, but there is one team that like to play without the ball. That team plays really well and the ball goes and goes and goes and the quality of the ball possession is good, but they don’t score. No points. They asked the FIFA committee if they can win like this but they’re told it’s not possible. That the bigger possession is not essential to win matches and they are not champions.”
José Mourinho on Manchester United at the Chelsea End of Season dinner, 2015.
Chelsea on the other-hand have a more flexible identity. The club won the league in 2004/05 with the best defence in Premier League history (15 conceded under you José) and again in 2009/10 with the best attack in Premier League history (103 goals scored). There’s also been seasons inbetween where this approach has led to staleness, confusion and disaster. Chelsea sides under Luis Felipe Scolari, Andre Villas-Boas and Rafa Benitez come to mind. Under Antonio Conte we’re currently in a hot period, and this has been moulded by his 3-4-3 tactic that exploits the counter-attacking option. The 3 at the back (cum 5 with Moses/Alonso dropping back) soak up pressure before rapidly breaking forward with Eden Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Diego Costa. It’s not beautiful, poetic football that we all dream of playing but it works and we’re on our way to our 5th Premier league title. You, again, highlighted how this is effective in the past:
“And finally there is a team. They wanted to play with the normal rules and they know that in matches they have to score one more goal than the opponent. How can you do this? By scoring lots of goals, by not conceding and scoring one.”
José Mourinho on his Chelsea side at the Chelsea End of Season dinner, 2015.
What surprised me more about your statement is the history you yourself has with so-called ‘defensive football’. As mentioned you built the toughest defence in Premier League history in 2004/05 and did similar with Inter Milan, so surely you – of all people – must be able to see the value of a strong defence. You, Mr.Mourinho, were hailed as starting the whole ‘park-the-bus’ joke/tactical phrase. Especially in your second stint at Chelsea, we regularly saw you take the team away to rivals and set up with the sole aim of not conceding. Away to Atletico Madrid in the 2013/14 Champions League semi-final we played with David Luiz in midfield, Cesar Azpilicueta at left-wing and Andre Schurrle up-front. We also ended up losing that tie, cheers José.
So what I’m trying to say José is maybe you should focus more on continuing your job at United and less on taking digs at the club where you are/were known as a hero. There’s no need to butcher the relationship you had with the Chelsea fans, and we would give you a good reception if you kept things amicable. You’re re-building Manchester United, playing better football and your recent run has looked promising for the future, but as of now you’re not in competition with Chelsea so just run your own race. After calling Arsene Wenger a ‘specialist in failure’ he won the FA Cup and watched your Chelsea plunge whilst Arsenal maintained their top 4 position. Learn your lesson mate, that’s all.
Finally, I think it’s worth reminding you that you said this before your 4-0 loss to your old team at Stamford Bridge back in October:
“In the end, when my last two or three months at the club were a period of bad results, the fans kept that empathy and remembered our relationship. That is something I don’t forget. And that is something I will always be grateful about because, with me, they have always behaved in a fantastic way.”
José Mourinho on Chelsea fans, October 2016.
I don’t know if that 4-0 loss took that soft, gooey affection away a bit, but the Chelsea fans have always treated you well and when you attack the club you attack the fans as well. We know you don’t even believe in half of what you say, and you do it for the benefit of your team; we know the game. However sometimes it’s better to just stay quiet, because if you keep up like this don’t expect as much ’empathy’ the next time you visit.
Until next time José,
Jack (/Chelsea fans)
(This feels like a drunken essay to an ex, apologies for the length but thanks for reading!)