Life couldn't get much better at the moment. Chelsea flaunt a ten-point advantage at the summit of the Premier League table and a place in the FA Cup semi-final was confirmed Monday night as Conte triumphed over Mourinho once again. But try as I might to concentrate on the positives, I cannot let Mourinho’s behaviour pass without comment.
I must stress that I have great respect and admiration for Mourinho; he is the most successful manager in the history of this great club. His name, achievements and legacy are all forever ingrained in the fabric of the club. But to quote the one that we once held so dear, ‘when you go to your direct rival the love affair is over'.
This isn't an insinuation that I begrudge Mourinho for moving to United, quite the contrary to be exact. Ultimately, it were Chelsea who ended his second tenure at the club, and in my eyes, he was free to move wherever he desired. The thing that I find exceedingly hard to tolerate is Mourinho's attitude since joining Manchester United; the fact that he's at United is irrelevant, it's his continuous judgments, the snide remarks, the eternal and borderline obsessive nature in which he talks about the club to the press.
I don't include his quotes about Chelsea being a ‘phenomenal defensive team' in this category. After all, we know better than anyone else how well Mourinho can manipulate an audience, especially the press. Whether it's pre-match or post-match, Mourinho will make a controversial remark, which on the surface could seem hideously absurd — e.g., his claim that Pogba was ‘the best player on the pitch’ Monday night — with the sole intention of deflecting criticism and pressure away from his team.
This is why ‘the world against us' rhetoric has provided him with a familiar, comforting narrative throughout his career, including his time at Chelsea. For all intents and purposes, the headlines write themselves; the media's scrutiny is pointed directly in the direction of the 54-year-old, while his team — who may just have produced one of their worst display of the season — largely escape judgment and criticism. This is quintessential Jose Mourinho, a tactic that he's utilised and will continue to employ throughout the remainder of his managerial career.
What I find difficult to digest is the persistent nature in which he talks about Chelsea when the situation provides no reason for him to mention us, such as his comments that United supporters were the best that he's ever had. While I acknowledge that these remarks were made during a period in which he was subjected to considerable scrutiny and adversity, it didn't make those comments any less hurtful. His words had just indirectly insulted a whole community of supporters who idolised him as a god-like figure, who tirelessly sang his name as his team produced a series of wretched performances while languishing in 16th place, and who had backed him unequivocally during all manner of controversies and disagreements. Who is the fickle one here again?
And what about his constant reminders that we're devoid of Champions League participation? Care to remind us who is responsible for that? Oh, of course, you're right, José, we should have won the competition last season to qualify, just like you managed to do ... hang on, that was Di Matteo, wasn't it?
That said, I don't think that calling Mourinho Judas was acceptable or warranted. But the ironic cries of ‘F*** off Mourinho' were somewhat amusing — no longer exclusive to the away section at Stamford Bridge! — and if he continues to publicly demonise, denigrate, and discount the club that he has claimed to be his own (and their achievements) then he should be expecting a similarly passionate response the next time around. Supporters commit endless hours and astronomical sums of money; they're entitled to say whatever they want. Football without supporters is nothing.
Some will argue that Chelsea without Mourinho would be nothing, but the same could easily be said of the manager, too. While his achievements at Porto were remarkable, it were Chelsea (and Abramovich) who awarded him the opportunity and the financial means to confirm his status as one of the world's leading managerial talents. In typical Jose fashion, he seized upon that chance emphatically, installing a winning tradition at the club that helped forged his unique and peerless relationship with Chelsea supporters. It was a bond that was fortified over seven seasons, and now demolished in less than seven months.
During his time in Italy and Spain, Mourinho spoke assertively of his love of Chelsea and Chelsea fans. While it is wholly unrealistic to expect the same love while he's managing a division rival in Manchester United, a little genuine respect would certainly go a long way. But respect is earned not demanded (as he did during his post-match comments about how he is still Chelsea’s most successful manager) and it is a two-way street. For Chelsea supporters to collectively respect him once again, he must show the same attitude and respect towards us — something that has been absent far too often during his reign as the Red Devils' manager.
Ultimately, as Conte has said on numerous occasions, the only talk that matters is the one on the pitch and so far Mou-nited have not only failed to win but have failed to score even a single goal against Chelsea in two meetings.
When Mourinho departed for the second time, I was left shuddering in sheer devastation. I was appalled at the decision. This is a man whom I adored, whom I idolised like no other. But I never expected him to show such a wretched, disdainful attitude towards to the club he supposedly loves more than any other. I'll forever be grateful for his accomplishments with Chelsea, yet it's hard to revive that admiration if he continues to act in the way he has been.
So let us focus on the present instead: we're top of the league, and we’re going to Wem-ber-ley. Forza Conte.