As the clock ticked into injury time on a gorgeous autumnal day at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho sat in his dug-out bearing an uncanny resemblance to Moe Szyslak serving a portion of “Million Dollar” Birthday Fries.
Mourinho’s Manchester United had travelled to Chelsea more in hope than expectation after a shocking start to the 2018-19 season, but were unexpectedly leading 2-1 through an Anthony Martial double.
It was going well for Uncle Mou. Almost too well. Doing his best to keep his emotions in check, like a recruitment consultant meeting his visibly disapproving in-laws for the first time, the United boss allowed himself a celebratory fist bump when his side went ahead.
But it was an action so low-key that it would’ve gone pretty much unnoticed had it not been caught on the television cameras.
The truce between Mourinho and Chelsea was 1914-esque, with both factions painting on fake smiles and waiting to fire high explosives at each other.
While the British and German armies fought over ideals such as freedom and imperialism, the carnage at Stamford Bridge was sparked over something no less trivial; a 98th-minute Ross Barkley equaliser.
After seeing Barkley scramble home Chelsea’s leveller at the third attempt, Mourinho was so statuesque that you expected half-a-dozen skinheads to form a protective ring around him.
But the king of unnecessary shithousery was about to receive an involuntary taste of his own medicine; Chelsea coach Marco Ianni celebrated Barkley’s goal by provocatively pumping his fists in Mourinho’s direction, taking tremendous care to rub his stony face in it.
Pushed to his outer limits, the Portuguese snapped. Breaking the world speed record as he leapt from his seat, Mourinho needed to be held back by a phalanx of stewards and United staff as he attempted to initiate fisticuffs with Ianni.
The Stamford Bridge tunnel shook. The Stamford Bridge crowd rubber-necked at grown adults losing their shit. Billions of viewers chuckled into their salted caramel popcorn.
Mourinho flaunted three fingers – signifying the number of league championships he won for Chelsea – at fans who’d spent the match telling the most successful manager in their history to fuck off. The relative calm prior to injury time felt like ancient history.
⚽️🎥 Así provocó Marco Ianni a José Mourinho. pic.twitter.com/eeMDNytFPH
— Soporte Sport (@SoporteSport) October 20, 2018
Asked about the ruckus after the game, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said: “Sincerely I have not seen [what happened] but I have spoken with Jose [Mourinho] then I have spoken with a member of staff because I think we were on the wrong side so I have dealt with it immediately.
“If I speak to a member of staff and am very hard [with him] I cannot come here and tell everything because then I am not credible with the staff.”
Following the match, Mourinho was asked what happened when the goal went in. Disarmingly, he was keen to dismiss the subject, despite his pot having well and truly boiled over just minutes before.
“Oh come on, I can tell you that 97 minutes of the game was so good that you have to focus on that,” he said.
“I did not get respect back from Chelsea [fans] but that is not my responsibility. What I did here today I will do in Madrid, in Milan, in Porto, the reaction from the fans is not up to me.
“I am not annoyed with anything. What happened with Sarri’s assistant, Sarri was the first one to come to me and say he will resolve it.”
Ianni ended up being fined £6,000 by the FA after admitting to an improper conduct charge for his overexuberant celebrations with both clubs, and Mourinho, being reminded of their responsibilities.
Mourinho actually went on to launch an impassioned defence of the Chelsea coach, insisting that he was well aware about making mistakes and the potential consequences of them.
“I’m not happy that is going too far with the young boy,” he said. “I don’t think he deserves more than what he got. He apologised to me, I accept his apologies, I think he deserves a second chance, I don’t think he deserves to be sacked.
“His club was strong with him and he went through a situation he recognises he was wrong,” he added. “I hope everybody does the same as I did which is not to disturb a career of a young guy which is probably a great guy, is probably a coach of great potential and I’m not happy with it more than that.
“It’s the end of story, with me. Let him work, everybody makes mistakes, I made mistakes.”
Mourinho’s biggest mistake of all was attempting to style out his Chelsea return in Szyslak-style. It was only ever going to end with vast amounts of piss boiled on both sides.
By Michael Lee