Jose Mourinho led a rival Premier League team into Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea for the first time on Sunday. Much of the talk over the past week had been about the reception the Special One would, or should, receive when he took the pitch in west London with Manchester United. All things considered, the first moments after Mourinho stepped foot on the pitch were civilized – normal, almost.
But it was the reception he received from the players, not fans, that ended up mattering. The match was a bloodbath, ending 4-0, with Pedro setting the tone for the game by scoring the fastest goal of the Premier League season.
Still, true Chelsea supporters generally love Mourinho. He made the club great during his first stint in charge, delivering two Premier League titles. After a period of separation, Chelsea fell on hard times. In an attempt to make the club great again (sorry Donald, that was too easy), Mourinho was brought back and he delivered one more Premier League title. But Chelsea were amazingly awful in 2015-16 and Jose was sacked mid-season.
While most of the club’s greatest successes can be attributed to Mourinho, he should not be immune from a critical eye. When you reflect on just how bad 2015-16 was and how Chelsea arrived there - you realize that Chelsea fans should actually be upset with Jose and here’s why.
The Blues are famous for their overwhelming reliance on the loan system, sending their young prospects to a variety of countries and divisions across Europe.
However, some of those players could have actually been helping Chelsea in the Premier League. Case in point: Victor Moses. The Nigerian international has been given his first serious chance to contribute at Stamford Bridge under Jose’s replacement, Antonio Conte, and the winger is flourishing. Conte’s 3-4-3 system has brought out the best in Moses, who tirelessly charges up and down the right flank. It makes you wonder why this is just being realized now when Moses was purchased from Wigan back in 2012.
Think about the players Mourinho has run out of Stamford Bridge. How nice would it be to see Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne still wearing Chelsea’s blue, rather than that of Everton and Manchester City? Andre Schurrle is a proven star for World Cup-winning Germany but wasn’t good enough for Chelsea? Juan Mata was Chelsea’s player of the season before being sent to, now very ironically, Manchester United. The truth is it has always been Jose’s way or the highway. But that has meant the highway out of London for some of Europe’s brightest stars.
Believe it or not, Chelsea has one of the best youth setups in England. They are constantly churning out players that produce remarkably for England’s youth teams. However, these players have rarely been seen with Chelsea’s senior team.
This theory is still a work in progress, and results remain to be seen, but Antonio Conte (and future Chelsea managers when he is inevitably fired) need to make the most of this young talent. Conte is showing signs that he realizes what he has in the Chelsea reserves. Nathaniel Chalobah is becoming a trusted reinforcement in midfield to help the Blues protect leads late games. Indeed, this moment from Sunday's rout by Chelsea of Mourinho's Manchester United might well sum up the game – and give Mourinho pause that he did not put more faith in Chalobah:
— Kyran Rickman (@RickmanKyran) October 23, 2016
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is being transformed into a hybrid forward/midfielder. And Dominic Solanke, who many believe has the greatest potential of them all, was kept at Stamford Bridge this season rather than being sent out on loan. Footballers, especially young ones, thrive off the faith and trust of their manager. That never happened under Jose Mourinho. It needs to happen now.
The outcome of Sunday's match aside, Chelsea fans likely still feel grateful to Jose Mourinho for the wins he did deliver. And that is okay. But while the short term success was satisfying, Chelsea fans must ask themselves if the Special One really prepared the club for the long haul.