Monday, 7 May 2018

We All Ate City's Dust!

I’ll never forget the way Jose Mourinho looked on the day he became Manchester United manager. At the moment he realised his greatest ambition, he looked bored, disinterested and inanimate; a waxwork model of himself.

Two years previously he’d returned to Chelsea, his sanctuary in the Premiership. Eager to crucify him for being way too successful, the UK media were completely over-excited.

However Mourinho 2.0 was a miserable man. His confident smirk gone, his jaunty optimism lost, he presented miserable shrugs, pouting lips and an absence of enthusiasm.

Something died in Jose Mourinho’s soul in November 2010, when Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona beat Mourinho’s Real Madrid 5-0. The charismatic twinkle in those handsome Portuguese eyes, which simultaneously irritated and attracted us all, was extinguished forever.

Up to that moment Jose’s career had been prodigious. Yet after receiving that thrashing from Pep, Jose said he felt impotent. For a man who craves power above all, that was a rare moment of truth.

Nevertheless, returning to the Premiership, Mourinho did what he usually does: win the title in the second season at his club. Then Chelsea did what they usually do, and fired the guy who won them the title.

This left Mourinho free at last to sit on the Red Throne of Manchester. 
But lo, what was this fresh horror?

On the Blue Throne, ruling the other half of the same city, his nemesis, Pep Guardiola.

Having sat on both Spanish thrones and the mighty European thrones of Milan and Munich, these two old foes now faced each other once more.

After a season to impose their style, we were ready last August to watch this mighty conflict resolve itself.

Reinforced by the strong tall meaty spine of Matic, Pogba and Lukaku, The Tactician built his favourite vehicle: A tank, ready to roll over any opposition.

The Magician prefers to drive a Ferrari, prioritising speed, style and flair. The blue Ferrari ran rings around the red Tank, leaving the rest of the league to chew on their pixie dust as they disappeared over the horizon.

Pep’s Ferrari evolved an aura so intimidating that opposition armies laid down their weapons, psychologically beaten before the referee blew the whistle for kick-off.

Thankfully even the best cannot escape defeat. We all have our own nemesis, and lurking in the wing s, waiting to bring Pep down was that rarest of beasts: a funny, warm, charismatic German, who it’s impossible to dislike.J├╝rgen Klopp’s exuberant Liverpool outplayed City at their own game, both in the league and Europe.

Teams reflect their managers. United play Jose’s dour safe football. Dripping style, class and confidence, playing games laden with goals and attacking football, Manchester City and Liverpool are a pleasure to watch, as are Spurs on occasion.

While other European leagues dwindle into two or three team hegemonies, the Premiership is becoming more thrilling than ever. For years there was only the Big Two of Arsenal and Manchester United, but now a Top Six has emerged.

Nobody is going to rule the Premiership for years. It’s just too full of great teams playing wonderful football.

Far from the peacocks at the top, the harshest drama is to be found down in the nether reaches of the league, where the future is full of fear.

So supreme is the Premiership that for those clubs financially unable to participate in its insane bazillion pound transfer market, the only target is survival. Firing manager after manager, these clubs desperately struggle to stay in the Big Money League.

If only they could clone survival specialists like Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis, they could hire a Pulis straight after firing a Pulis.

My beloved Chelsea FC succeeded once again in sending me even more loopy than I naturally am. If teams reflect their managers, Chelsea are a basket case, firing any manager who wins a major trophy. 

Wonderful Carlo Ancelotti won our only League and FA Cup double: fired. Roberto di Matteo won the Champions League: fired. Mourinho won us the league three times, along with a rake of domestic cups: fired twice.

If you want to keep your job at Chelsea, don’t win anything. 

Follow company policy and sell your best players. 

Both of the favourites for this year’s Player of the Year Award, Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah, were considered “Not good enough for Chelsea...” and sold, along with countless others. Buy strikers that only play 20 games a season for their previous clubs (Costa, Morata) and midfielders either returning from injury (Barkley) or utterly useless (Bakayoko).

When Chelsea manager Antonio Conte instructed his players to stay in their own half for the entirety of the Manchester City game, it represented not only my low point of the season but my nadir as a Chelsea fan - and that’s saying something! Throughout that shameful 90 minutes I endured an identity crisis.

Who were this team?

Not my Chelsea.

Unpredictable, exciting and confounding, Chelsea always have a go. If you’re not trying to win, why the hell did you get out of bed?

My only consolation was that if we were bad, the Gooners (Arsenal) were worse. Arsene Wenger even managed to complain about his own fans as he announced his retirement.

This season’s high point? Hopefully when we beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, on May 19th.

Come on you Blues!

©Charlie Adley

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