Jose Mourinho has spoken a lot about Manchester City this season. From the “little horse” press conference to the “dodgy financial play” comments, Mourinho has drawn Manuel Pellegrini into his mind games and, unsurprisingly, he is winning.
His weekly press conference this Friday gave another opportunity to have a little dig at the Citizens. Yaya Toure had accused the "Special One" of being disrespectful over comments made before the Citizens’ 4-1 aggregate defeat to Barcelona, and Mourinho was quick to settle that score. He told the gathered media, per Sky Sports:
If to say before the Munich and Camp Nou matches that these matches are not over, that Arsenal and City have enough quality to go there and turn things around, if to support the teams from the country where I work, if this is a lack of respect, okay that's a lack of respect.
But I think that Arsenal and Manchester City showed that I was right, that they had enough quality to do it. They played very good matches, so I don't think this is a lack of respect, this is support. In the same way, I say Manchester City have three matches in hand in the Premier League and they are capable of winning all three matches and going top of the league. If that is lack of respect, he has a strange concept of lack of respect.
It is this “respect” for City that raises eyebrows. Why does Mourinho praise his direct rivals so highly? Is he continuing the theme begun at the start of the season, making clear the main aim is development at Chelsea this season? Or is he trying to destabilise the Citizens in the hope that they will crumble?
Whatever the motives behind his words, this is a win-win and win again situation for Mourinho. Love him or loathe him, the "Special One" commands attention. His comments make Manchester City the team to beat, at a crucial time in the season.
City’s run-in is certainly not going to be easy, with a tricky mix of matches against struggling sides and title contenders. They still have to travel to Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as making the trip to Old Trafford. They will also face tough opposition from relegation-threatened Sunderland, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.
He is ultimately correct that City have control of their own destiny. If they win the title, Jose was right all along. He can smile, shrug and say he expected nothing different, while continuing his long-term project at Chelsea.
However, if Chelsea win the title, he has covered his bases there. Instead of the Blues feeling that they have not won, rather City have lost it, he has crafted the perfect underdog narrative for his squad. All the talk of Chelsea not being title contenders this year, the eggs that need blankets and love, all of that will have built up to make any success at Stamford Bridge this season the ultimate triumph.