Jose Mourinho marked his long-awaited return to the Premier League this weekend with the contentious claim that the past two champions, Manchester United and Manchester City, were significantly inferior to his old Chelsea team.
Mourinho stressed that, from top to bottom, he believes the league has strengthened since 2007 and he now regards Chelsea as one of six clubs competing to win the title. “I agree with Arsène Wenger – we don’t see somebody who can destroy the competition with 95 or 100 points,” he said.
Mourinho was then reminded how he correctly predicted that Chelsea would win the league soon after arriving in 2004.
“My squad was a squad of end products at that time,” he said. “We can this season but it’s a different process. I want to give the players the stability and they don’t need the added pressure. We have a good squad: some with talents who aren’t end products, some kids who haven’t played a Premier League match.”
Mourinho was adamant, however, that a repeat of last season, when Chelsea eventually had to make do with winning the Europa League, would be failure.
“I think it’s a failure because we go for the Champions League,” he said. There was then a very pointed observation about some of the spending this summer across Europe. “The Champions League is a competition with more contenders, ambition and potential,” he said, “and some with an incredible economic potential with no ‘financial fair play’. It looks like that is for some and not others.”
Given the estimated £1 billion that Roman Abramovich has ploughed into Chelsea, there was some irony in Mourinho’s comments and would appear to be another attempt to put pressure on Manchester City. Mourinho was also amused by the suggestion of David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, that his club were the victims of some sort of conspiracy over the fixture list.
“Was it a computer, or old fashioned with hot balls and cold balls?” he asked. “If it’s a computer, unless the computer has a virus, I don’t know.”
Mourinho recalled some of his many achievements, notably an unbeaten home league record at Chelsea.
“I have to lose at home sometimes,” he said. “Two seasons in Porto. Three-and-a-half at Chelsea. Two at Inter. That’s not normal.”
Mourinho also seized on a question abut the perception that his teams lack flair. “The story is always the same,” he said. “Record points in the Premier League: my Chelsea. Record points in La Liga: my Real Madrid. Record of goals: my Real Madrid.
“You see the profile of player we have: Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Kevin de Bruyne, André Schürrle. We can’t play physical football with these people. I want to attack and try to be dominant.”
However there was no mention of Victor Moses, who returned to Chelsea on Friday following Nigeria’s match against South Africa on Wednesday. “I don’t select him for Hull,” said Mourinho.
David Luiz is out with a hamstring injury – and Mourinho again reiterated that the Brazilian would not be sold to Barcelona – while a late decision will be made on the fitness of Juan Mata.
After a wait of 2,162 days, Mourinho is expecting his return to the home Stamford Bridge dugout on Sunday be emotional. “I am now better than ever because experience helps us to be better,” he said.
He was also told that, according to Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, his comeback would bring “stardust” to the competition. “If he’s the boss and says that, maybe he’s right,” said Mourinho.
The first sprinkling was supplied on Friday.