Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho was elsewhere as he was awarded the LMA Premier League manager of the year award, but that didn’t stop Sir Alex Ferguson forecasting more Blues dominance ahead.
‘Champions will always be the ones to beat. Jose knows his squad well. He’s settled. It’s going to be a very successful few years for Chelsea’ said the Manchester United legend as he presented the honour.
Yet, in another nugget from the ceremony Ferguson unwittingly highlighted at least two reasons why increasing or even continued Chelsea supremacy is far from assured.
‘He’s a successful man, a winner. He deserves the award. I thought he had the best squad. John Terry played every game.’
Firstly there is the assertion that Stamford Bridge housed the finest roster in the division this term. The best first XI is nearer the mark.
Remove Nemanja Matic or Cesc Fabregas from the equation and Chelsea were noticeably weaker, whether or not they ultimately found a way to win, with Ramires arguably first understudy for both, yet neither as disciplined as the Serb or as incisive a passer as the World Cup winner.
Similarly, a past his prime and now moving on Didier Drogba was the preferred understudy on the multiple occasions Diego Costa’s hamstrings played him up.
Without accurate deployment of Roman Abramovich’s cash cannon, there will be nothing to protect them from either Fabregas’ traditional post-Christmas form slump or his international teammate’s temperamental tendons.
Sourcing players of sufficient quality is easier said than done, especially those prepared to play second fiddle to the incumbents, as the lukewarm success of Juan Cuadrado has illustrated.
Ferguson’s nod to the evergreen John Terry, meanwhile, is a reminder of how difficult he will be to replace as both a defender and a leader at the club.
At 35 it’s hard to imagine him playing on for a ‘few’ more years, especially given his stated preference to retire at Chelsea.
The Premier League is no Serie A-style saga holiday for centre-halves on the slow down, as the Blues captain’s own stuck-in-cement attempts to atone for his own positional error against Sadio Mane at Stamford Bridge last December illustrated.
Finally there is Ferguson’s assertion that Mourinho is settled, a romantic notion with regard to a manager who has never lasted more than three years and one day at any of his previous clubs.
It may well be that the Portuguese feels more at home in west London than he did in either Madrid or Milan but, having fallen foul of Abramovich’s exacting standards before, there is little doubt that the spiky tactician could do so again, as he suggested in an interview with the BBC’s Football Focus.
“I see myself coaching another club, yes, but I love Chelsea and I am in Mr Abramovich’s hands and until then I’m here.
“The day Mr Abramovich thinks I’m not good enough for Chelsea, I want to work, and if possible in England too.”
Chelsea are currently 13/10 to retain their Premier League title in 2015/16.