Jose Mourinho heard phrases like ‘never go back’ and ‘the sequel is rarely as good as the original’ when he agreed to rejoin Chelsea, but how he has rammed those words back down the throats of his critics.
The 52-year-old Portuguese may want to respond with the equally popular ‘I told you so’ refrain after masterminding Chelsea’s first Premier League title triumph for five years.
When Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge in June 2013, six years after bidding an emotional farewell to the club he had led to successive league titles in 2005 and 2006, he admitted “the expectations are higher because people know what I can deliver”.
He went close to landing the title in his first season back last year, a shock home defeat by bottom of the table Sunderland towards the end of the campaign ultimately costing Chelsea dear.
Mourinho played down his side’s chances throughout that campaign, saying they were only a “little horse” in the race. This season he has turned the squad into thoroughbreds.
Just as he did in his first spell in west London, the self-styled ‘Special One’ has inspired a collective team ethos that is second to none.
Captain John Terry summed up Mourinho’s effect on his players after Wednesday’s come-from-behind 3-1 victory at Leicester City.
“We have to give respect to the manager,” Terry said. “What he’s done with this side in two years has been different class.
“Okay, we’ve had to grind out results recently because teams get behind the ball and make things difficult for us but the players and the manager deserve a lot of respect.”
Chelsea began the campaign with a real verve and swagger thanks to the silky skills of Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and the dazzling Eden Hazard consistently loading the bullets for hitman Diego Costa to fire up front.
However, a surprise 5-3 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day took everyone aback at Stamford Bridge.
As Fabregas’s form dipped and Costa started to struggle with a long-term hamstring injury, Mourinho appeared to decide that a more pragmatic approach would be needed in order to maintain their position at the top of the table.
Opposition teams were rarely blown away in the second half of the campaign and one-goal victory margins became commonplace for Chelsea.
A 0-0 draw at Arsenal last Sunday led to the home fans chanting ‘boring, boring Chelsea’ but that was a long way from the truth.
Nigel Pearson sprung to Mourinho’s defence after his Leicester side were beaten on Wednesday.
“I’ve heard criticism of Chelsea in the last few weeks and I find it very bemusing that people have the views they have,” said Pearson.
“The best sides are able to win games in different ways and I think Chelsea illustrated that tonight.”
“I think they’re a really good side and have some great players. Chelsea are worthy champions.” (Editing by Toby Davis)”