Trophyless, third in the Premier League and Champions League semi-finalists. The sort of season more synonymous with Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager who was the subject of that stinging barb at the hands of the Portuguese earlier in the season.
Such a return was the minimum requirement for Mourinho upon his eagerly-anticipated return to Stamford Bridge.
“Evolution” and “transition” might have been the buzz words since the Portuguese’s second coming yet Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, is not a man renowned for his patience.
Mourinho, the first Chelsea manager to work for the Russian to have survived the axe after failing to win silverware that season, will know it too. He might also now, after this trophyless term, refrain from such antagonistic slurs as those he bestowed upon his French counterpart at The Emirates.
Yet after watching his team come from behind against Cardiff to bring down the curtain on their campaign with a victory, ‘The Special One’ publicly at least, insisted that watching the champagne corks popping at the Etihad Stadium was not a source of torment.
“Manchester City are champions and they deserve it,” he said. “They have four more points than us and two more than Liverpool.
“They are not guilty of defeats like ours to Aston Villa and Sunderland. It has nothing to do with them. Am I hurt [by City winning]? No, because it is part of the process.
“One thing is to play clearly to win the title. Another is to be in a transition phase. My decision was this and I am happy with that. It is part of a process in a dangerous league where you can finish fifth and be out of the Champions League.
“Third is not a drama, it is a position you have to accept in this transitional period. We are not asking for eight, nine, 10 years to achieve success but you can’t just click your fingers and success arrives.”
Yet less than an hour after the final ball of this campaign had been kicked, Mourinho was already sounding a battle cry in preparation for the next in what appeared a distinct shift in rhetoric as far as Chelsea’s title ambitions for 2014/15 are concerned.
“Next season if we do our work in a successful way in the summer market, which I know the club is trying to do everything to make that a successful period for us, then if we do that I want to start day one saying we are going to fight for the title.”
Diego Costa, the Atletico Madrid striker who helped kill Mourinho’s Champions League dream, tops the shopping list and a striker of that pedrigree could make the all-important difference.
Mourinho already largely has the tools required, however. It is forging the mentality required to win matches like those against Villa and Sunderland – he referred to these games six times in his press conference – which is where he will be looking for his transitional team to step up next year.
“We don’t need a new spine, a new structure,” he said. “It is there.
“The fundamental for us now is a couple of players of a certain level to help the team immediately go to a different level.”
Cardiff had led within 15 minutes via Craig Bellamy’s deflected strike in what seems likely to be his final game as a professional. The 34-year-old, who has scored for a record seven clubs in the Premier League, is out of contract this summer and is reportedly planning to call time on his career.
Yet the introduction of Andre Schurrle on 66 minutes transformed the game after Chelsea had spurned a host of chances.
David Marshall added another stunning save to this season’s collection to keep out Cesar Azpilicueta’s header from point-blank range following Oscar’s inviting delivery.
The Spanish defender then found the crossbar from the rebound before Schurrle’s volley into the ground finally broke the home side’s resistance.
And another followed just three minutes later when Don Cowie’s clearance was headed towards Fernando Torres by Schurrle and this time the former Liverpool forward made no mistake, slotting beyond David Marshall from close range.
Mourinho insisted he expects both Torres and Ashley Cole to be part of his squad for next season. That will be the campaign Abramovich will expect Mourinho’s side’s evolution to become complete. Should that fail to happen we all know the consequences.
CARDIFF (4-4-2): Marshall 7; Fabio 6, Caulker 5, Turner 6, John 5; Daehli 7 (Cowie 67, 5) Mutch 6, Whittingham 5, Bellamy 6 (Healey 76); Campbell (James 89), Gunnarsson.
CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer 6; Azpilicueta 7, Ivanovic 6, Kalas 6, Cole 7; Matic 6, Mikel 6 (Schürrle 66, 8); Salah 5 (Aké 79), Hazard 6 (Swift 89) Oscar 7; Torres 6.
Referee: Michael Oliver.