José Mourinho has publicly challenged Roman Abramovich to sack him, stressing that he has no intention of resigning and that this an opportunity for Chelsea to “act in a different way” and demonstrate trust in their manager, after his team slumped to their fourth Premier League defeat of the campaign, 3-1 to Southampton.
The defending champions were humiliated by an impressive Southampton side and, languishing in 16th place, have now endured their worst start to a season in 37 years. The Portuguese conceded it would now be “very difficult” to retain the title and he is likely to be charged and fined by the Football Association after suggesting referees “are afraid to give decisions to Chelsea”, having been exasperated especially by Robert Madley’s failure to award a penalty to Radamel Falcao with the score at 1-1. The visitors, though, had their own legitimate calls for a penalty.
The Chelsea manager moved to confront doubts over his own future head on. “I do not run away,” he said. “No way I resign. No way. If the club want to sack me, they have to sack me because I am not running away from my responsibility. Why? Because Chelsea cannot have a better manager than me. There are many managers in the world that belong to my level, but they are not better. Not better. So no chance I run away.
“I have my professional pride and I know that I am very good at my job, and also because I like this club very much. I want the best for my club, and that is for me to stay. So I stay. When we were champions last season I said I was going to stay until the owner and the board wanted me to leave. No club can persuade me to leave. No financial offer can persuade me to leave. I’m going to stay until the day the owner or the board tell me: ‘José, that’s enough.’ I said that when I was champion. I say that now when I’m 16th in the table.”
Since Mourinho was sacked by the club in 2007, his five full-time successors have all been dismissed. “This is a crucial moment in the history of this club. Do you know why? Because if the club sack me they sack the best manager this club ever had. And the message again is that if there are bad results, the manager is guilty. This is the message people have got over the last decade from Chelsea so this is a moment when people assume responsibilities, including me, the players and other people in the club. We need to stick together. This is what I want.”
Abramovich was at Stamford Bridge to witness the team’s second home loss of the term, but Mourinho has had no indication as yet that the faith that had earned the manager a new four-year contract this summer has been eroded. “I have no signs that anything changes,” he said. “But you know the history of this club: every time the results are not good, there has been a change of manager. The power is always, in the end, with the owner and the board. But when I was contacted to come back, I was told: ‘We had so many managers, and we know you are the best.’ So I think it’s time for the club to act in a different way, to mark a position of stability, a position of trust.”
He stressed his confidence that Chelsea can still qualify for the Champions League, though he acknowledged that retaining the title is a different matter. “Three months ago we were on the bus with the cups, so it’s time for all of us to be together now at the bottom of the league. And I think, in December, January, February we will be top four. To be champions would be very, very difficult, but top four is completely do-able. Do the players trust me and feel I am the man for the job? This week we spoke about it and the answer was not in doubt. The supporters … when they booed the decision to take off Willian I would have done the same if I hadn’t known Willian was vomiting in the dressing room at half-time. If they have some negative reaction at the end, I’d do the same because the result wasn’t what we wanted.”
His criticisms of the referee, notably over Maarten Stekelenburg’s challenge on Falcao, are sure to draw scrutiny from the FA. “When you are so down it is time to be honest and say, clearly, referees are afraid to give decisions to Chelsea. At 1-1 there is a huge penalty and, once more, we do not get it. If the FA wants to punish me they can punish me, no problem. But referees are afraid to give decisions to Chelsea. Why? Because when they do there is always criticism. So we are always punished.
“We are punished because Diego Costa is suspended with images. That decision today was crucial because my team, at the moment, collapses at the first negative thing that happens. Mentally, psychologically, the team is unbelievably down. It looks like good players are bad players. They are in such a low moment that they collapse.
“The players still have to play to the end of the season with a gold champions’ badge on their shirts, and I want to work because you know I have big self-esteem and a big ego. I consider myself the best. The worst period and worst results of my career as a professional hurt me a lot. So I want to carry on, no doubt, and I assume my responsibilities.”