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Jun 10, 2013

Happily ever after?

It was about 15 minutes into his first press conference back as Chelsea manager that Jose Mourinho finally cracked the kind of broad smile many had expected, and offered the quip many had wanted.

• The Happy One: Full transcript
• Blog: Jose turns on charm
• Palmer: The Abramovich Years
• Brewin: Back at the Bridge

The response, however, perhaps explained why his demeanour didn't match this new description of himself as "the Happy One". When asked whether he actually enjoys doing press conferences like this, Mourinho replied: "I don't love this, but it's part of my job. I have to try and do it. I try to give what you want, but I can't always give you a good line. I try to be honest and try and give you what you're expecting from me at this moment. But what I want to do is work."

As ever, the actual truth came behind the curtain, away from the stage. If Mourinho often seemed more restrained than genuinely enthused at his second public unveiling as Chelsea manager, part of it was down to the fact that this was a highly staged event.

To illustrate the increased scale of it, the club had used the same Harris Suite in Stamford Bridge's West Stand to announce the appointment of Rafa Benitez in November, but only half the space was used. Reflecting Mourinho's huge personality and profile, this conference was attended by over 250 journalists – more than for either Jupp Heynckes or Jurgen Klopp in the media events the day before the Champions League final. Illustrating the kind of circus it occasionally dipped into, it was preceded by the following request: "Ladies and gentlemen of the press, take your seats. The main event will be starting shortly."

It was only after it had ended, and Mourinho was back behind the scenes, that he looked properly happy again. As the Portuguese coach stood chatting to his entourage – among them agent Jorge Mendes and coach Rui Faria – he came across as much more relaxed. More importantly, he looked much more at home.

It was in a similar back room at Manchester United, just a few weeks ago, that the Old Trafford board apparently had one last intense discussion about appointing Mourinho ahead of David Moyes. Despite fears about the ructions the Portuguese coach could cause, outgoing chief executive David Gill is said to have been a big supporter. As is well known, too, Roman Abramovich initially wanted Pep Guardiola above anyone else.

Then there's the other twist to it all. Mourinho is understood to have been openly angling for the United job. If the perception persists that both manager and club have ended up with their second choices and this is just a marriage of convenience at Stamford Bridge, many of Mourinho's comments did leave a few other questions.

When asked whether he was hurt he hadn't been offered the jobs at United or Manchester City, he simply said: "No. I am where I want to be. I wouldn't change it for anything. It's my job. The job I want. It's a job I was offered and I accepted immediately."

That exact description of the "job I was offered" carried some ambiguity, especially when you consider reports that Mendes made a last play to secure the Old Trafford role as well as Mourinho's own explanation as to the timescale of his appointment. He said he decided to definitively come back to Chelsea "not a long time ago".

"First of all I decided I was going to leave my previous club. That was the trigger, the first point. I had to make that decision. After that, it was a question of analysing the situation, the possibilities, and making a decision that was the best for my happiness."

It was at that point, however, that Mourinho began to significantly change the narrative. Up until then, with the manner in which a series of arguments and public incidents had apparently cost him the United job, it could have been said that there was an element of Greek tragedy to his story. Much like Brian Clough with England in the 1970s, it seemed as if the very abrasive qualities that made him such a great manager in the first place had also denied him the role he wanted most.

Then Mourinho started to indicate change and growth – both in the club and himself.

"I have the same heart and the same kind of emotions related to my passion for football and my job. But I'm of course a different person. Calmer? I believe so. You have to learn with experiences.

"When I was managing for the first time, I thought I knew everything. After 13 years, you realise you knew nothing and you have to learn every day. My adventure around Europe was fantastic for me. England, Italy and Spain: different cultures, mentalities, players, leagues, tactics, media. Different everything. At 50, I think I'm still very young as a manager and I think it was like the beginning of a new period.

"Again I repeat. I'm the same personality, same nature, but a different perspective."

Most conspicuously, in elaborating his new plans for Chelsea, he effectively described exactly the type of personality that Manchester United were looking for to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. At Stamford Bridge, now, it seems he wants to help build a truly lasting club rather than just a winning team

"I had desires for new challenges in the past, but in this moment I'm in a completely other direction. When you see the profile of the squad, if you want the best education for 22- to 25-year-old players, they need stability. The club is stable. It has a fantastic structure. I find a much better club in many areas, but they also need stability in football areas – game principles, coaching – and the only way to build success again is with stability.

"We are pulling in the same direction – the owners, the board, me – and the players will be happy if we can give them that stability. It's what I need in this moment my career."

That is the other, deeper point. Even if Chelsea and Mourinho were each other's second choices, they may ironically be at the exact points when they have the same long-term objectives and are in complete unison. If there was any kind of lingering feeling that a man exhausted after the battles of Madrid required a year's rest, Mourinho waved them away with words that indicated a change, at all levels, was much more beneficial.

"There's something I want very clear. I didn't choose for my career a comfortable position because I'm returning to a house where I was happy and successful and where the fans love me. No. I'm coming with exactly the opposite perspective. I have more responsibility because of that.

"The point is we all want the same. We are in the same direction. It's a moment where I think maturity, very good feelings, the same perspective for the future of the club. My area is the football area, but more and more you have to be deeply connected with other areas in the club. I think we have the same kind of vision. I'm more than happy to follow this philosophy that we want for the team, and I'm more than happy to be back.

"In this moment, it's a moment for a different approach. Not losing my nature, which is the nature of the club too. Trying to win is not just my nature, but that of the club too, and Mr Abrmovich too. I think we are all prepared for a different era with a different profile of team. As I was saying, I'm more than happy.

"A football team without the fingerprint of its manager is never a football team. Even if it looks like it is. We want an identity even more present."

Mourinho certainly started the rebranding of his identity by calling himself "the Happy One". Much like in his first press conference back, though, a man infamous for only instant gratification must now prove he can offer it in the long-term. To United, to City, to Chelsea and to himself.

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