Mourinho shows his true colours
Chelsea 1 Sunderland 2
Surrounded by the comparative calm last summer of a five-star hotel on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Jose Mourinho was asked if he felt a particular responsibility on his return to English football.
"Maybe I have a bit more in terms of being one of the more experienced guys," he said.
"Probably I have to be an example for everybody in many aspects: conduct, support, be there for everyone when for some reason they need me."
Goalkeeper Petr Cech looked unconvinced when he was subsequently asked if Mourinho, now into his fifties, really had changed. "I think only the season will show," he said.
The usual stresses and strains of actual football matches have provided the answer.
Little about Mourinho is actually different. As a manager and planner of big matches, there are moments when he is touched by genius – notably this season in the victories over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.
He also remains one of the most charismatic people you could meet but, when things do not go his way, his behaviour can disintegrate towards disgrace.
Saturday was the latest example. Yes, the stakes were high. Mourinho was losing his remarkable 77-match unbeaten sequence at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea were probably squandering the Premier League title.
It was also normal that he might have been frustrated by some of the decisions of referee Mike Dean.
Yet this was the same Mike Dean whose leniency when Chelsea drew 0-0 at Arsenal irritated Arsene Wenger and prompted Mourinho to note that his rivals "liked to cry".
When the roles were reversed on Saturday, Chelsea were not just blubbing; they were kicking and screaming like a class of five-year-olds whose Easter eggs had been confiscated.
And over what exactly? Was there a moment of terrible injustice in the game. Well, only one. It was when Ramires, a Chelsea player, deliberately struck Sebastian Larsson in the face during the first half and was allowed to stay on the pitch.
Beyond that, there was a series of decisions that could be debated endlessly. Larsson might have conceded a penalty for an earlier shoulder charge on Ramires. Adam Johnson might have been sent off rather than booked for a high foot on Cesar Azpilicueta.
And, even if replays suggested otherwise, you could argue that Sunderland's winning penalty, when Azpilicueta's foot got tangled with Jozy Altidore, was a little soft. The point, however, is these were all finely balanced decisions that Dean could argue, with some conviction, that he got right.
So how did Chelsea react? A furious tantrum from Mourinho's assistant, Rui Faria, that ended with him being dragged away from Dean by a combination of Mourinho and goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon.
Then, from Mourinho himself, a bizarre press conference in which he praised his players, Sunderland, Dean and referees' chief Mike Riley.
Sarcasm, it seemed, was heavy, particularly when Mourinho referenced how Riley had "organised things" and said referees were "doing really well according to the objectives".
No questions were permitted about Ramires. Nothing about Faria. And, ahead of tomorrow's first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, no questions on the shortcomings either of his team or, dare we say it, how they were organised by the manager.
It was all rather pathetic and it will be fascinating to see how the English FA reacts.Its criteria for taking action against a manager is if the comments have questioned the partiality of an official. Mourinho could argue that he was being sincere, that there was no hidden meaning and that he has no case to answer.
But if just about every person who was listening suspected that he was hinting at some sort of conspiracy, is the FA not at least obliged to ask for some clarification? Mourinho's antics did blur the focus on the mistakes of his players, notably Mark Schwarzer, whose parry into the path of Connor Wickham allowed Sunderland to equalise Samuel Eto'o's volleyed opener.
Then, after Chelsea had struggled to turn almost two-thirds of possession into clear chances, it was Azpilicueta who first slipped and then rashly went to ground in trying to tackle Altidore.
Fabio Borini is on loan from Liverpool and, before that, had spent two years largely in Chelsea's reserve team. It would be understandable, then, for him to take particular pleasure from his winning goal.
"My first thoughts are with Sunderland – that's the shirt I'm wearing," said Borini. "The Tottenham defeat was probably a punch in the face – it woke us up and turned it over for us. When miracles happen it's because people always believe."
That was a reference to Gus Poyet's assertion that a miracle was needed. Should Sunderland win their game in hand, they would actually now move out of the relegation zone.
"We needed something special," said Poyet. "To be the first team somehow to beat Mourinho's Chelsea at home is a privilege and a little bit of mixed emotions because I've played here.
"What I have done for their title hopes is bad – I'm sorry but I was just doing my best for Sunderland."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)