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The lazy journalists, part-time football fans and rolling sports news programmes in England got what they wanted when Jose Mourinho returned in the summer, a character who omits an attitude that suggests he believes he is bigger than the game. He has already given them what they want in under ten days of the new season, disingenuously saying David Moyes was the reason Wayne Rooney wanted to leave Manchester United and revelling in agreeing the transfer of Willian for what looks to be the primary purpose of stopping Spurs having him. He has created talking points from hot air while on the pitch the rest of us see the old traits, from the unspoken influence over refereeing decisions that led to an undeserved win against Aston Villa last week and negative tactics in yesterday evening’s goalless draw at Old Trafford.

Reputation is everything to Mourinho, visible from the pictures he tries to paint in his interviews to his image on the touchline (last night in pullover and jacket despite the seasonal warm climate); but legacy is more than an honours list, it is created in the manner success is achieved. Introduced as “the man himself” in his post-match interview on Monday Night Football, he left both Real Madrid and Chelsea the first-time round with dissatisfaction within at someone who caused internal unrest and tried to kill games and grind out results on the biggest stage despite having a wealth of talent at his disposal in both cases.

His apparent distrust of Juan Mata is supposed to come from a doubt that Mata has the pace for attacks on the break, as if the squad that Chelsea have assembled should be defending for most of the game. But perhaps he is instead making a point to the Spanish footballing nation who weren’t forgiving in their analysis of his style and didn’t lose their focus despite the deliberate distractions.

There is no escaping from the fact he wanted the Manchester United job, courting Sir Alex Ferguson and everyone else associated with the club while leaving plenty of bait in the media. United instead picked someone without the medals or the fanfare, choosing someone they felt would not only see out a long-contract, but would maintain the integrity of the position and the club.

Meanwhile, the bitterness, the ambition and the football played by the ignored one last night looked pretty ugly.

When he was sacked from Chelsea first-time round their newer fans protested outside the ground, saying their club had been destroyed, believing the hype that he had single-handedly made them Champions. The transformation from a club often in the second division playing behind a running track had actually begun under Glenn Hoddle with Matthew Harding’s backing and was continued by Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri. When Russian money then came in Mourinho wasn’t even in the frame, with new signings recommended on the word of Sven Goran Eriksson who never followed.

Porto’s late goal at Old Trafford followed by The European Cup changed Mourinho’s career and was perfect timing after Ranieri failed to get to the Champions League Final, but it was only after he left that Chelsea won the double and their own European Cup, the latter achieved with a negative, lucky campaign that Mourinho would have himself revelled in.

It was the style, or lack of it, in that campaign, soon referred to as “anti-football” throughout Europe, that led to Roberto Di Matteo being sacked; it is against Abramovich’s instincts that he has gone back to Mourinho and kept Frank Lampard, one of the senior players who was instrumental in not allowing Andre Villas-Boas succeed in his brief of overturning an aging squad and powerful dressing-room.

In the last three seasons Chelsea have invested multi-millions in a whole team of attacking midfielders who can play behind a striker; with the money, the return of Mourinho, the departure of Ferguson and the deliberate intent in destabilizing rivals (from Willian to last night’s post-match comments on Rooney), Chelsea are already perceived by many as title favourites. Failure, domestically and in Europe, aligned with more negative football, and it is unlikely Mourinho will last as long in his second spell as Moyes will last at Manchester United.

MG

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