For eight minutes of Jose Mourinho's post-match press conference he danced around the subject of the divisions at Chelsea that are threatening his future at the club. And then he made his killer comment.
"At the moment everybody at this club should think about the club and not about themselves," he said. "I have said the same to the players. The important thing is that everybody gives their maximum for the club. I'm a club man. And because I love the club it's important."
So is everyone else giving what he called their "maximum"? "People around me I can promise you yes, we are together," he said. And with that he was gone, refusing to say whether he will see out his contract, refusing to pledge his future to Chelsea. "I have seen so many things in football since I was a kid," Mourinho added, "that you cannot be 100 per cent categoric about some issues."
As ever it was a question of picking through the language. Mourinho chose his words carefully. Those around him are not the problem - his coaching staff are intensely loyal while the players, one exception apart, are apparently totally behind him.
They are behind him to such an extent that John Terry, the captain is prepared to lead a delegation, along with Didier Drogba, to see the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, to find out if Mourinho is under pressure. If Abramovich will listen to any player then it is Terry.
"We have to concentrate on our jobs and if everyone gives the maximum out of his contribution I think we can have a good future," Mourinho said. He feels he is giving that maximum, but that others are not. Of his squad, Andriy Shevchenko has become the focus of his discontent. The £31 million striker, a personal friend of Abramovich, did not make the squad yesterday with, officially, a strained hamstring ruling him out.
Shevchenko did not sit with the other injured players - Terry, Petr Cech, who is fit to play again on Monday, and Joe Cole - behind the Chelsea dug-out either. Mourinho is so exasperated with the Ukrainian that he has told friends he believes he has come to Chelsea to be "on holiday".
One consequence of Shevchenko's poor form has been the suggestion that Mourinho employs a Russian-speaking coach to work directly with him, and that his assistant, Steve Clarke, should depart to make room. Mourinho has given the idea short shrift and yesterday claimed it was untrue.
"One thing is for sure," he said. "It's not true and the second thing I can say is that if, if, and I repeat if, the club tried to do that they would have to do him and me together. Without him I would not work at this club."
Clarke was there on the touchline with Mourinho but although he was in playful mood after the match the Portuguese looked as buttoned-up as his tight-fitting coat was during it. Even the implorings of the supporters who tapped into the mood by chanting "Jose Mourinho" and "Stand up for the Special One" did not provoke a response. He remained grim-faced, impassive.
As did Abramovich. The billionaire, as is his habit, stood throughout leaning on the glass door of the executive box he occupies directly opposite the dug-out. Abramovich has heard such chants before. Three years ago they urged him not to sack Claudio Ranieri but it made no difference. This is a man who trusts his instinct, his intuition and, at present, that is telling him not to intervene, as he has done in the past. Mourinho can feel the pressure and Abramovich will see how he responds.
He has responded with anger. Much of his anger is focused outside the club, on associates and friends of Abramovich who he believes have interfered, but there is also a growing rift with what has been termed a "Dutch-Russian connection" involving the chief scout, Frank Arnesen, who is steeped in Dutch football, and, it is understood, has challenged Mourinho's power.
The word "challenge" was also on Mourinho's mind, he used it six times in his programme notes, and repeated it again afterwards. "It's a challenge," he said of the injuries and suspensions his team had suffered. It is also a challenge to see if he can win his current battles off the field.Reuse content