Chelsea dancing to Mourinho's rhythm

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho does not have a photograph to remind him of the greatest triumph of his - or any club manager's - career. He does not possess a picture of him and the European Cup that his former club Porto won so arrestingly in May. Even for a man not given to understatement, this is the most extraordinary of claims, especially as this was the multi-million-pound image that ultimately secured his path to Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho does not have a photograph to remind him of the greatest triumph of his - or any club manager's - career. He does not possess a picture of him and the European Cup that his former club Porto won so arrestingly in May. Even for a man not given to understatement, this is the most extraordinary of claims, especially as this was the multi-million-pound image that ultimately secured his path to Chelsea.

"I won but I didn't touch the cup," Mourinho says by way of responding to a question about what will motivate him this season. "The match ended and I just kissed the cup when it was there next to the Uefa president. I got my medal and I walked away to Stamford Bridge."

He surveys the response - one of incredulity - before adding: "So now I want to feel... I don't have a photo with the cup, you know. I don't have a photo. Maybe if you have one in your paper, you could tell your photographers to offer one to me. I don't have one. I had no time. I had no time. The cup was for the players, for the captain.

"After that there was the family photo with everybody, my kids were just there with my wife. I forgot the cup, I went to the press room, and after that I went home and the next day I flew to Monaco to meet Mr [Peter] Kenyon [the Chelsea chief executive] and Mr Abramovich [the club's owner]. So I was not participating [in the celebrations]."

It is a bravura performance. It may well be true but its delivery, even if it is executed with an engaging sense of honesty, is measured. Mourinho, it appears, has no need of reminders as to his abilities, as to what he is capable of. Aged 41, he has achieved something that he knows his main rival, Arsenal's Arsène Wenger, more than a decade his senior, has not - a fact that is eating away at this most brilliant of coaches - and that time is on his side when it comes to Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson.

It is lunchtime on Friday at Chelsea's training ground at Harlington, near Heathrow, and there is a palpable sense of change. Mourinho has instituted a rigour with his players which he has applied to his surroundings as well. Security is taut, areas are marked off, there is a precision to proceedings. Boards have been erected, guards employed. It smells of United's - albeit sleeker - operation at their training facilities at Carrington. But there is a sense of who is in charge and a sense of discipline.

Mourinho marches in. A little late but, hey, he's busy. Even if he insists his transfer business is done. Mourinho knows that the questions will centre on his relationship with Ferguson. After all, United provide his first test in the Premiership today. And there is one snapshot Mourinho cannot avoid - the sight of him tearing down the Old Trafford touchline after knocking United out of last season's Champions' League.

"It was a good goal, wasn't it?" he says of Costinha's late strike that induced the jig. "I think the referee played three more minutes but it was a golden goal. I've never had that in my life. I'll never get that feeling again but I think that a golden goal must be something amazing. It was finished and we did it. Amazing. It was not because of Manchester United, it was because it was an important competition."

And because it was United. He knows the score, and the value of an early strike today, however late, to create an advantage against the manager who is, for his intensity and desire, the most like him in the Premiership and who has been its most successful resident. Mourinho knows that Arsenal are the team to beat, but another win over Ferguson would be psychologically more important.

"I don't want to compare myself with other people," he says when the names of his two main rivals are raised. "I am what I am. I did what I did and I will try to do well again in the future." It is, he insists, "impossible to compare". "They are completely different people, and coaches, and ages, and titles. Everything is different," Mourinho says.

Except self-belief. These are three peas from their own inimitable pods but Mourinho insists, despite his spending power - which has surprised even him, especially when it came to the late, inflated purchase of Porto's central defender Ricardo Carvalho - that he is at a disadvantage. And it is a persuasive argument. "They know everything about their squads," he says of his rivals.

"Maybe they know some players better than they do their own families because they spend 24 hours a day with their players for many, many years. I was at Porto for two seasons and I knew everything about them so I can imagine it is fantastic when you can keep the same group for many years. You know everything about them. I have been here one month." It is maybe why he offers surprising praise to the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil. He craves the continuity.

Chelsea's squad have been conducting double training sessions in order to catch up, in order to learn the Mourinho way. Rooms are retained for the players at the nearby Holiday Inn so they can rest in between training. Double sessions, when appropriate, will continue throughout the season. The work ethic is relentless and even Mourinho admits to a pang of guilt when naming his first XI today. Some will be bitterly disappointed. "It will be more direct," promises Mourinho of the style of play his team will adopt. More direct than the Iberian way but, if his drills are anything to go by, less crude than the usual Premiership style. The ball will not be a grenade.

"In England football is different," Mourinho concedes. "I think it is a mix of what I like in my team [in Porto] with what I think is possible to do and what I think is impossible to do. In between will come Chelsea." It's a heady promise. And its first test has arrived.

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