YEAR OF THE (LITTLE) HORSE

It was shortly after 22.00 on Monday 2nd February somewhere within the pitch level catacombs of Manchester City’s deflated and conquered Etihad Stadium. José Mourinho faced the awaiting media after producing a trademark tactical pièce de résistance, the Portuguese having observed his in form CFC charges execute his precise game plan with control, commitment, style and verve. When the most inevitable of questions was posed to The Special One regarding CFC’s standing in this season’s Premiership title race his post-match rhetoric was typically unique. Mourinho proclaimed the title battle a three horse race and referred to his team infamously as ‘a little horse’ up against two supposed thoroughbreds in Arsenal and Manchester City. A little horse in need of further nurture, not yet ready to usurp the aforementioned challengers and win the Premiership crown. With the layers to and meaning behind Mourinho’s sporting psychology ever complex it remains to be seen whether this is a genuine belief of CFC’s leader or an attempt to distance his predominately inexperienced squad from the pressures bestowed on a title favourite.

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Coincidently 1st February 2014 was not only the eve of the titanic clash at the Etihad but also marked the New Lunar Year and the first day of the Chinese Year Of The Horse. Despite Mourinho refusing to include CFC as a firm title contender could this indeed transpire to be CFC’s time to once again reclaim their place at the top of the domestic footballing tree, could this be the year of the ‘little horse’. The horse is one of the animals that make up the twelve year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. Research provides the general school of thought is that the Year Of The Horse will represent a year full of conflict which in CFC’s sphere will equate to serious on-pitch footballing warfare, battles every week. Renowned Feng Shui practitioner Raymond Lo commented; “The upcoming Horse year is also a ‘yang wood’ year, when people will stick more to their principles and stand firm. So it is hard to negotiate or compromise as there are more tendencies for people to fight for their ideals.”. If this is to be the case Mourinho is sure to thrive in such an environment. Very much a man of principles and devoutly committed to his ideology. We have seen in recent weeks the verbal exchanges that have occurred first between The Special One and Manuel Pelligrini and more recently and vociferously Arsene Wenger which seem very much to reflect Lo’s commentary.

 

It is necessary at this time to recognise Mourinho’s comparisons are not a complete facade and that he does not secretly truly believe that CFC are the favourite that will storm to the Premier League title this season, but we certainly do have a chance. The reason for this chance being the same person that has publicly ruled CFC out of the race, Mourinho. During the short period since his heralded return to Stamford Bridge Mourinho has quickly re-moulded the playing staff into a Mourinho-esque machine capable of beating anybody. Not only has Mourinho affected the mentality of existing CFC players in a positive way and accelerated the development of the likes of Eden Hazard, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Oscar to name but four individuals, in the transfer market Mourinho has quickly set about realigning the composition of his squad in keeping with his ideals. The signings of Willian, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah very much prove this. Industrious, skilful players with pace, strength and much opportunity for further improvement to the benefit of CFC in the long term. The huge improvement Mourinho has made to the mentality and progression of CFC this season was epitomised by the way the team ran out deserved winners at the Etihad. Hazard and Willian were simply superb, showing not only world class technique, guile and blistering pace but defensive awareness and commitment to keeping the team’s sheet clean. On every occasion Willian and Hazard sprung into action in the offensive third Nemanja Matic and David Luiz provided stability and structure to the shape of the team that Manchester City were not good enough to overcome. The dropped points at the Hawthorns after the Eden Hazard show against Newcastle do serve however to justify the words of Mourinho that the ‘little horse’ may fall just shy of the title this year but if that proves to be the case the whole club will be better for the experience and the team ready to fit in with Mourinho’s tradition of his sides coming into their own during the second year of his guidance – which he has not been afraid to commit to in public. Exciting times await with the best manager in the world at the CFC helm.

 

Mourinho was the only managerial selection that would have achieved acclaim universally from all those who hold CFC dear. That isn’t to say there are not a handful of alternative top class managers in world football that would have been great appointments for the club but it could only be one man given the various previous short term appointments and precaution CFC fans would naturally show to incumbents as a result. It had to be Mourinho. The thorough trust of the supporters is a rare commodity and one that is far from achieved overnight. David Moyes is living this reality currently. Also, not even success can guarantee trust. The supporters must be convinced by the results on the pitch as well as the personality and commitment of the manager and the manner in which the club is directed under their stewardship. Integral to this is the extra percentage of performance a manager can extract from the playing staff. This is and always has been Mourinho’s forte. We have, as above, seen this in practice already this season and in the event this proves not to be the time for Mourinho’s ‘little horse’ to lift the Premier League trophy CFC have the best man in place to lead from the front not just next season but for the next era in the club’s history.

 

Thanks for reading and keep the blue flag flying high.

Written by Dean Evans.

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