The incoming record was decently impressive: three league titles, two domestic cups, two Champions Leagues. Massively high number of matches won? Check. Lasting impact on the tactics of the game? Check. Instant success in new job?
That's Pep Guardiola, by the way. Four years at Barcelona yielded some of the most devastating football ever played.
Like many great coaches, Pep is synonymous with something. In some cases, famous coaches are synonymous with their famous players. Gregg Popovich brings to mind Tim Duncan. In other cases, famous coaches are synonymous with an event that doubles as a microcosm of personality. While tenuous, many still think of the Junction Boys when they think of Bear Bryant. Still other coaches are just synonymous with greatness. Sir Alex Ferguson is famous for a red face, chewing gum, and dominating modern football to a degree that I'd think he was playing on Professional in FIFA 14 if I didn't think he wasn't just playing Tecmo Bowl. In some ways, Bear Bryant (and Nick Saban) are the same.
Not a freekick, just a new passing scheme - David Ramos / Getty
Pep Guardiola is synonymous with tiki taka. If Pep told his Bayern team to park the bus and counter for the next twenty years, I believe Pep would still be known as the man who invented tiki taka. He took a team that was fading under Rijkaard (after two league titles and a Champions League victory) and unlocked it. In many ways, it was the same team: the top appearances in 2007-08 (before Pep's arrival) reads like a Barcelona legends list: Valdes, Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta, Abidal, Milito (Gabriel, not Mourinho's), Henry, Zambrotta, Toure, Messi, Eto'o, Marquez. In Pep's first season: Alves (new), Valdes, Xavi, Eto'o, Pique (new-old), Puyol, Messi, Toure, Iniesta, Marquez, Henry, Abidal, Busquets (new). Etc.
By only changing a few members of the top group (and a €38m net spend), Pep turned the team (and the game) around. We know too well what happened from there. (Say it with me: Tom Henning Ovrebo.)
Pep, as you know, is now at Bayern Munich. He just won the league and the domestic cup (with a ridiculous win percentage). And yet, why does it feel like it might be going downhill?
That's the weird thing about sports. Sometimes surviving is enough for celebration. Sometimes winning the league feels eerily like failure. Sometimes trusting the man who basically revolutionized passing football is really, really hard because he takes the world's most devastating team and breaks it like a child throwing your brand new controller.
Pretty sad dude - Matthew Lewis / Getty
Arsene Wenger used to not be synonymous with failure.
In his first full season with Arsenal he won the league. The table is actually largely unrecognizable to me now: Arsenal and United slugged it out with Arsenal securing a one point lead (this narrative is made up, I'm just reading the table). Despite being inferior in both goals scored and goals conceded, Wenger's Arsenal wins the league on the back of losing one game less and tying one game more. I'm guessing he's hailed as a hero. He delivers two more titles, including the incredible Invincibles, who actually lost six games (none in the league). They stumbled in the quarter finals to Chelsea FC. Wenger won the 2005 FA Cup and reached the 2006 Champions League Final. He is synonymous with breaking ground on modern football training, scouting, and playing.
Last May, Arsene was praised for breaking a nine year trophy drought.
Ferguson is unusual. His dying act as a manager? Runaway Premier League title on the back of a glass striker. He wasn't vilified until after his career ended. He left the cupboard bare, they said. Maybe Moyes just doesn't know how to open cupboards.
Luiz: £50m. Mata: £37.1m. Lukaku: £28m. KDB: £16.5m. Ba: £4.7m. Cole: free. Lampard: free. Total: £136.3m. That's a club legend, a club icon, two established fan favorites, two promising youngsters, and Demba Ba. A lot of pain, and a lot of money.
Costa: £32m. Fabregas: £27m. Matic: £21m. Filipe: £15.8m. Zouma: £12.5m. Salah: £11m. Drogba: free. Total: £119.3m. That's a club legend returning, one of the best strikers in Europe, one of the best midfielders in the world, one of the best left backs in the world, and two promising youngsters.
To say that Mourinho has been ruthless with the squad since January is an understatement. Gone are the hopes of the exciting future we once envisioned. No more floppy-haired Luiz. Bye Mata, bye Rom, bye Kevin, bye Vixen. It's not unfair to say that no other manager could pull this off at Chelsea.
And, perhaps, that's not bad either.
You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Yes, I'm quoting Harvey Dent today. Pep Guardiola might have seen himself became the villain. Same for you, Wenger. In his afterlife, Ferguson has been attacked for not having the foresight to buy a new team. And Mourinho?
What do we make of our masked vigilante? Why does Mourinho have the right to sell your favorite player?
That's not an easy question to answer.
Chelsea FC is a club. It has a rich tradition. If you think of Chelsea you think of the legends -- players, not coaches. Osgood, Tambling, Zola, Lampard, Greaves. Terry. Cech. These players instilled the club with a certain flair. Some instilled it with the mindset of champions.
But there is another name who comes up in the list of Chelsea legends. Jose Mourinho. Not one out of the bottle. He arrived and conquered. He won the league in his first season. And his second. His third saw the FA Cup come to Stamford Bridge (or not, I don't know).
You know what happened. He left, and success followed, both for the manager and the club. We won another title, lost a Champions League final, won a Champions League, and maybe won every FA Cup since 2003 (unclear). Mourinho won three league titles and a Champions League.
The legend is back. And you have to ask yourself: do you respect the coach Mourinho is now, or do you respect the coach Mourinho was then? The men are not the same. This Mourinho has tasted failure. This Mourinho has grown up. And, this Mourinho might be better.
Time will tell, of course. Do you know why Mourinho gets to sell your favorite player? Because Mourinho is a winner. Mourinho has proved that he will do what it takes to win. You might have envisioned winning the league with a Mata through ball to Lukaku, but Mourinho has envisioned it with DIego Costa. Why does Mourinho get to do what no other manager gets to do? Why does Mourinho get praise where Benitez would have got the sack?
Because Benitez loses more.
So you have to ask yourself: is Mourinho worth it? That's a question for you to answer, because Mourinho hasn't sold my favorite player (yet). And if he does, I will move on. Ferguson sold your favorite player too (you being the unfortunate United fans reading this, of course, not my Chelsea fellows). Ferguson let Ronaldo go, and Beckham go, and disciplined who he needed, and made himself the undisputed ruler in Manchester. Ferguson let Pogba walk. Ferguson ruled with an iron fist.
Never good enough - Jamie McDonald / Getty
Mourinho loaned your favorite prospect. He bought a player who you hate. And, when the dust settles and the debris clears, Mourinho will be standing there, iron fist raised up, yelling at your favorite player to track back or sit on the bench. We will almost certainly win this year, but at this point our squad is pretty stacked and could win with 14-year-old Bassman93 at the helm (kidding, kidding, no harm meant).
So why? Why go through this pain? Why allow these beautiful, unwieldy, deeply faulted towers fall (looking at you, Mata's Defensive Ability)? What makes us bear the injustice of Mourinho? Why listen to the senile Ferguson? Is the winning worth it (and believe me, they will win)? Why subject yourself to the torment of seeing your favorite player leave your favorite club?
Because sometimes you wake up and realize you need the iron fist.
The King is dead, long live the King. But it's not Drogba. It's not Luiz, or Mata, or Cech or Lampard or Terry.
It's Mourinho, and it's Ferguson. One day Mourinho will be the villain. Until then, let's win.