Jose Mourinho is no longer on the sidelines for Chelsea; but as the manager rightly said, he is still Chelsea #1.
The 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup brings Chelsea another step closer to the double, a feat last achieved by Carlo Ancelotti.
The win gave Antonio Conte his second victory over Jose Mourinho this season. However, the game ended with some sections of the home fans chanting “Judas” at Mourinho.
It was heartening to see the majority of the Chelsea faithful condemn the insolence directed towards Mourinho. After all, he is a man who had helped lay the foundations for the most successful era in Chelsea’s history.
Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Di Matteo and all the Chelsea managers in the past decade (and there have been quite a few of them) had built title-winning teams in their own imagine. But they had built their teams around a spine of Cech-Terry-Lampard-Drogba which was brought together by Mourinho.
Man that deserves credit
Chelsea fans should be grateful to Mourinho. He deserves credit not only for the titles he won and the foundations he set over ten years ago but for the current team as well.
Before Mourinho arrived as manager for the second time in 2013 as the “happy one”, the then Chelsea team had produced the worst defence of the Champions League as title holders.
There was also a pressing need for a change of the old guard. Over the course of the next 2 and a half years, Mourinho faced many tough decisions. But the choices he made led to his third English league title. To achieve that, the former Real Madrid manager overhauled the team. He brought back a ruthless mentality that had been missing from the team, particularly in the league.
Mourinho made the difficult decision of letting go club legends but ageing players like Cech, Ashley Cole and Lampard. He brought in new blood in the form of Courtois, Matic, Fabregas, and Pedro, who are still fueling the team now.
Under his management, players like Hazard and Azpilicueta hit new heights of performances. And it was his insistence on bringing in Diego Costa that ended what seemed like a never-ending search for Drogba’s replacement.
Mourinho made some controversial decisions and cost Chelsea somewhat. The decision to cash in on star players like Mata, Lukaku and De Bruyne had raised more than a few eyebrows. But most of his decisions were precise and are coming to fruition still.
At the start of this season, Antonio Conte called himself a tailor. The Italian suggested that he needed to find the right system to fit a team full of talented players. His tactical switch to 3-4-3 and the purchases made in the form of Kante and Luiz have been ingenious. But we should also bear in mind the role Jose “The Special One” Mourinho played in shaping this team and show him the respect he deserves.