Seeing Mourinho lead opposition forces into Stamford Bridge and take up a position in the away manager technical area for the second time — first with Inter Milan in 2010 and now with Manchester United in 2016 — presents a divisive moment for Chelsea fans. When José emerges from the tunnel, clad in all-black with the United crest stitched onto his blazer and affixed to the point of his tie, what reception should he receive?
Previously, On “When Mourinho Returns...”
When he returned in 2010, buoyed by a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, our home supporters offered up their voice, hands, and hearts to welcome “The Special One” back. Even locked in a tough Champions League draw against the Portuguese’s new team, how do you not provide recognition to the man who brought the club two Premier League titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup during his tenure? Even though losing 1-0 on the night and being eliminated from the Champions League dampened the mood, it didn’t take away from anyone’s respect of Mourinho. In fact, more than anything it emboldened us to wonder “What if things hadn’t soured…”
Our Second Chance At Love
We had the chance to play out this scenario in 2013, when Mourinho returned to Chelsea for the second time. He professed the difficulty in playing against Chelsea, reaffirmed his promises to fans from 2004, and dropped the since often quoted line, “I’m one of you.” But while the first two years offered magical moments, from beating the badge in celebration at Anfield to technical area tie-flip of Arsene Wenger, it too ended with a whimper.
Hearts Turned Inside Out
Ultimately we’re now left with Matchweek 9 and having to deal with and unpack our emotions. Unlike what your daily dose of social media commentary and punditry would lead you to believe, this issue isn’t as simple as examining two sides of a coin. To view it as a binary situation — applaud or boo — neglects the depths at which sport becomes just as much a part of our bodies as bone and sinew.
These feeling are more nuanced than that, and are deserving of a deeper level of introspection. But of course, we also live in the world of seven second snippets and emojification; we need that moment of pause to be simple. Thanks to Disney, and the geniuses (and potentially critical Einsteins) at Pixar , “Inside Out” provides a great template for filtering through all the feels the come with José’s return.
You’re still angry with Mourinho for everything that happened last season, and won’t quickly forget flirting with the relegation zone and the tenth place finish that jettisoned the club from the Champion’s League. You look at him and see a man who speaks half-truths and who betrayed our trust.
You’ll stare wistfully at Mourinho, but never long enough that your eyes might accidentally lock. You know it wasn’t all his fault. You wish the players had been held more accountable and that the Board had backed him in the transfer market with better player acquisitions.
United? United? If he had to leave, you question why it couldn’t be for someone else. Anyone else. Now you just look away, imaging the worst when you see Jose whispering instructions into Mata’s ear on the sidelines. He’s probably saying “Fergie time.”
Yes, we have Antonio Conte in charge now, and he has managed to breathe life into players fractured under the previous regime. But you know that Mourinho lives for these high drama matches and is still a tactical genius. It’s more terrifying than the psycho clown epidemic.
You are thankful for what Mourinho did for Chelsea. His time with the club, directly or indirectly, set us up for unprecedented success. Yes, his departure didn’t have a storybook ending — second verse same as the first — but you’d rather celebrate his contributions than highlight his shortcomings.
Following Mourinho’s Lead
Perhaps the best thing to do on Sunday is to take one last page from Mourinho’s book. His quotes about Frank Lampard and his switch to Manchester City — by way of New York City FC — have resurfaced, used by boo birds like a prosecutor unveiling the smoking gun at a trial of José’s character.
Damning words. But this is only a part of what Mourinho said when speaking on the subject. When you look at the expanded quote, there’s some elements people are glossing over.
Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge on a day when Chelsea will focus its energy not on recognizing the former manager, but on celebrating the life of Matthew Harding on the 20th anniversary of his tragic passing. Truly one of our own, Harding, not Mourinho, should be the focal point of the day’s commemorations.
In the end, no one really cares if you decided to boo or applaud, or maybe even just give an appreciative nod. That’s a personal decision. Where your energy — from voice to hands, head and heart — should be placed however is in recognition of Harding and the support of Conte and our players. Maintain proper Chelsea culture and beauty. Focus on and understand what really matters.
That, among all else, is what we shouldn’t lose sight of – it’s just the type of unnerved, confident atmosphere he would want.