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Five Aside

A champion's farewell?

After wrapping up his second successive title triumph as Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho gave his strongest hint yet that this will be his final moment of glory in English football.

Rumours have been circulating in the media for months that Mourinho will leave Chelsea at the end of the season and on what should have been his finest hour as Blues chief, the maverick Portuguese enigma took the opportunity to stun a room full of journalists once again.

After collecting his fourth success championship as a coach, Mourinho tossed two winners medals into the crowd before squaring up to a press pack he has grown to loath during his explosive two years in England. His words left few in any doubt that he is considering his future at Stamford Bridge.

'I should be the happiest man in the world, but I'm not and it makes me think,' he told a stunned press room. 'There have been a couple of times this season when I have sulked and decided to close the door and say goodbye to Chelsea at the end of the season. All I want is to be happy.

'The trouble with this job is that it is impossible to get recognition for what you achieve. I'm never given a prize for Manager of the Month and the same when they give out the annual awards. Being in charge of Chelsea means you can never be seen as the best manager.

'People look at Chelsea and only see pound notes and big transfer fees, so in many ways this is the worst club in the world to be a manager. If I try to buy a glass of water, people say the price is £200, but for everyone else it is £2. Now at the end, I am a champion again, but people say I only did it because of the money. I am not the guilty one just for spending money, but I can never win.'

Mourinho went on to claim he intends to stay at Chelsea for next season, but the mood in the press room was that of a hungry pack ready to write some obituaries to a coach who has rarely been short of a word since he was appointed Chelsea boss in the summer of 2004.

Two successive championships have done little to satisfy him and when one journalist suggested he looked like a man in need of a fresh challenge, his response was telling. 'I intend to be here next season unless they sack me,' he went on.

'I like working for the people at this club, but the overall job must be the worst in football. I have won two championships, gone on long winning runs, but when was I Manager of the Month? I tell you, twice. They look at it and say his job is easier because he has the money.

'In the end, all I can do is keep on winning, but there are still a few rats out there waiting for me to make a mistake, for me to fail, but not this time. There is always a negative feeling towards Chelsea and I don't like it. Everyone expected us to win the Premiership this time and we have done it. We didn't let our opponents down.'

So Chelsea are the champions, and even if Mourinho doesn't seem happy about it, their dominance of the Premiership this season has been almost complete.

Yet as the men who have secured themselves a place in this club's less than glorious history collected a second successive Premiership trophy, you couldn't help but feel there was something of a last day at the office feel about it all.

The truth is Chelsea won the title many weeks ago and that this was merely their crowning glory, yet as the fans who finally seem to be learning a few songs to sing at Stamford Bridge made their way back home after this party, you wonder whether they consider their glass to be half-full or half-empty.

'We are going to win the league, so what,' one long-term fan said to me prior to kick-off. 'I have never left a game early before this season, but I do it every week now. This is the most boring Chelsea side I've ever. Give me Kerry Dixon and Zola any time.'

That poignant voice may not be alone in his frustration. Back in the days when Chelsea were rubbish and many of the supporters who celebrated their success today were wearing red Manchester United shirts, the merest hint of glory brought a shiver down the spine of genuine Blues followers.

Few remember the Blues' 1986 victory in the lesser-known Full Members Cup at Wembley, which was the cue for mass celebrations; yet I wonder whether that was the real golden age at this football club.

Now awash with money and working with a different budget compared to every other club in world football, did genuine Chelsea fans get more enjoyment from their long awaited 1997 FA Cup triumph than this title success, which is expected more than dreamed about in the Abramovich era?

Failing to make any kind of impact in the three cup competitions they entered this season makes this title triumph little more than a consolation prize for Chelsea and you wonder whether the club who will do anything to win will make the necessary changes to do just that next season.

All has gone quiet on the 'Mourinho to Inter' rumours, but with his alleged ongoing feud with chief executive Peter Kenyon still a major issue and his post-match words today, there is every chance that this was his final home game in charge of Chelsea.

Could it be that Sven Goran Eriksson will be stood in his place for the first game of next season? Maybe even Luiz Felipe Scolari as he now appears to be available.

With Michael Ballack arriving from Bayern Munich, many believe this was Frank Lampard's final game in a blue shirt at Stamford Bridge, while the likes of Damien Duff, Ricardo Carvalho, Geremi and William Gallas may also have been part of a Chelsea squad at this stadium for the last time.

It says much about Chelsea's dominance of the Premiership that they are looking to make wholesale changes after strolling to the title with such ease, yet they expect more than a solitary party at the end of every league season. At a time of the season when Cup finals inject all fans with excitement, this dour Chelsea campaign has wound towards a predictable close and those who crave the poverty stricken battle against the odds of yesteryear can only lament what they have lost.

For now, they will celebrate a success like this and on a day when they only needed a point to secure the title, William Gallas' fifth minute goal ensure the title party could kick-off in earnest earlier than expected.

On a day when their nearest rivals came to test Chelsea's fragile form, there was every chance that their campaign could be given it's ultimate damp squib finale, but they are good on set plays and United's shaky defending helped them to confirm as much.

Second half goals from Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho confirmed the inevitable and the sight of Wayne Rooney rolling around in agony with what looked like a broken foot must have sent a shiver down the spine of England fans. 'I am scared for the boy,' stated Mourinho after Rooney limped out of Stamford Bridge on crutches.

'The World Cup needs Wayne Rooney and so do England, but he was not touched by my player and they are generally the most dangerous injuries. I hope he will be okay and someone from United told me he will be good for the summer. Let's hope they are right.'

It may be fitting that Jose Mourinho's final words on this title triumph are compassionate as it is a shame that the architect of Chelsea's most successful two seasons in their history doesn't seem to be getting any personal satisfaction from his triumphs in English football.

If this is to be farewell to Jose Mourinho, more than a few of us in the media will miss his dry charm. I doubt he will miss any of us.

In many ways, the England midfielder has emerged as the star of Chelsea's season and his goal in this game was a touch of class.

FIND THOSE MEN: Who got Jose's championship medals? If it was you, get in touch with me and I'll offer you a great deal!

ROONEY UPDATE: Sir Alex Ferguson claimed he did not know if the England talisman had broken his foot and all will be revealed after an x-ray in Manchester on Sunday. His World Cup hopes must be hanging by a thread.

INSIDER VERDICT: We may have seen the last of Jose Mourinho managing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and he would be a loss to the English game. As for United, they looked a long way behind a rampant Blues on this evidence.

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