It’s a remarkable claim, but then these are remarkable times at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho believes he would not be sacked even if the champions finish mid-table this season. This time, he says, it’s “different” — but the Portuguese did add a caveat.
“I was not told that because we don’t expect to finish mid-table,” Mourinho insisted.
All of that forms one reason why he says he did not expect to get sacked after Chelsea’s 3-1 home defeat to Southampton either — despite anxiously bringing that prospect into the public domain in the first place by mentioning it on Sky himself.
Ahead of his team’s home match against Aston Villa, in which they will look to get their first win in four games in all competitions, Mourinho opened up about the vote of confidence given to him by Roman Abramovich following the Southampton result.
He insisted that statement was more for the media’s benefit than for him, to kill speculation.
“For me, the important thing is the owner and the board’s message to myself and, before the statement came out, I was having feedback from the owner and the board. So the statement was not something new for me. That support, I’d got before.
“Why did the statement come out? Maybe to stop the rumour I could be on my way out because the support to myself was not made by the statement, but by a normal conversation we’ve had many times. This time it was to support and to make me completely aware of the club’s intentions.”
If he was already aware, though, the wonder is why he so frantically began talking about the sack in his seven-minutemonologue after the Southampton game. Some close to Mourinho claim there was fear in his circle that the end could be nigh. He says he was pre-empting the inevitable question.
“I knew that would come. So if I didn’t go directly to the point, the next question would have been if I was going to resign, whether I thought I would be sacked, if I had the support of the owner. You can predict my answers. I can sometimes predict the questions. I could imagine. I could anticipate the situation and I wanted to make it clear there was no chance I would resign.”
Sources at Chelsea insist there was also no chance of sacking Mourinho either, justifying his claim. Although there had been some trepidation among staff when a board meeting was called after Southampton, it immediately became clear Abramovich merely wanted to discuss the best way to show full support to Mourinho.
In that regard, at least, the manager was wrong. The statement was not for the media’s benefit. It was for his, as Abramovich wanted to restore calm.
All of this does indicate that it is different this time, as Mourinho reiterated that the club wants to go in a different direction than the constant managerial revolutions of the last decade.
“I knew what brought me here. I know the conversation we had two years ago. I knew what made me sign a new contract, and the reasons the owner and board decided to give me a new contract. They didn’t have to. I still had two years, so they didn’t have to give me a new contract.”
He also says he knows Chelsea will improve, believing they will be in the top four by the season’s end.
“In the beginning of the season I said [to Abramovich] this championship is so dangerous that, two years ago, [Manchester] United were out of the top four. Last year Liverpool were out of the top four. And this year somebody will be out of the top four.
“Do I think it’s Chelsea? No, I don’t think it’s Chelsea.”
The deeper question in all of this, though — and it is someway related to Abramovich wanting to restore calm — is whether Mourinho can resolve the deeper problems with the squad. There have been times when it has looked irretrievable.
In that regard, a home fixture against struggling Aston Villa comes at exactly the right time.
It should be the the type of of fixture that lifts a weight, that restores confidence, which Mourinho says has been lacking.
Then again, this has been a remarkable season.
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