‘Stand up for the Special One’ chanted the crowd at Stamford Bridge.
Predictably, Chelsea fans rose as they have so many times before, and will so many times again.
In modern football, unwavering support for a player, much less a manager is rare, but that is exactly what the Chelsea faithful have offered Jose Mourinho in recent weeks.
Among Chelsea fans, Jose Mourinho is not only their greatest ever manager. He is a God, with almost a religious like fervor surrounding him.
Has there been a manager so loved by a set of fans in the last two decades?
Alex Ferguson is obviously the man you would point to here, but he was at United for twenty years. Mourinho only spent just over three seasons at Chelsea and left for a long period.
Despite that, the man who took the Russian Rubles and made them into a world class team remained a hero at the Bridge.
Not in the way a Carlo Ancelotti type figure is remembered – no, a real hero. For Chelsea fans, no other manager was good enough, no matter what they won.
Since the day Mourinho left, the Blues wanted one thing, and one thing only. Jose Mourinho back at the helm, and finally they got their wish.
A trophyless season welcomed Mourinho home after a torrid final six months in Madrid, but as fans knew it would, the double followed.
Chelsea, with Mourinho as manager, were onto a winner. A decade of dominance, or so they thought.
Three out of their four Premier League titles have come with Mourinho as manager. The other, won under Ancelotti, was done with Mourinho’s team. His spine. His men.
The fans knew it – they also knew that Holy Grail in Munich was as much down to Mourinho as it was Di Matteo – if not more.
That’s why the Chelsea fans have spent the last four months singing their manager’s name. Admittedly, at the start of the season it was pretty easy to do. Even Arsenal fans would have been unanimously #WengerIn at that point.
No one could foretell how their title defence would collapse so badly.
No one thought reports of players revolting and an owner ready to push the eject button on the hotseat would be doing the rounds daily on the backpages.
But it happened. Eden Hazard’s form, loss after loss, goals flying in left right and centre in the wrong net. You name it, Mourinho has faced it.
And, up to now, he has survived.
That is down to a couple of factors.
Willian seems to be on a one man mission to keep Jose in a job, and if there are rumours that the other two of the ‘three amigos’, Oscar and Eden Hazard, wanted Mourinho out of a job, he hasn’t received the memo.
For as woeful as Hazard and Ivanovic have been, Willian has been sublime. In fact, only Own Goal has a shout at being a bigger influence on their positive results this season.
Roman Abramovich, so trigger happy in the past, has learnt from his mistakes.
He knows Mourinho wouldn’t return a third time. He also knows that three months of poor results can be overlooked after three league titles and countless domestic cups delivered by the same man.
His reputation of being a Special One, of being the man who has been a consummate winner over the last decade, has kept Mourinho in a job.
As have the Chelsea fans.
For a club who apparently only have ten years of history, Jose Mourinho is a huge part of that. In fact, bar Roman Abramovich, he might well be the most significant part of it. And the supporters love him.
Losing away at Stoke City, literally on a rainy midweek night, 5,000 travelling fans sung Mourinho’s name until the bitter end.
And you don’t get much more bitter than being dumped out of the Mickey Mouse cup, on penalties to an unfancied side with ten men, when your player of last season failed to net his spot kick.
As the rumours that it was a matter of when, and not if, Jose got the chop began to crop up hourly on social media and in the papers, Chelsea fans stood up for their Special One and were counted.
The support has been unanimous.
If rumours of a rebel in the camp are accurate, no matter who said player is, the fans want them gone. There is no player, past or present, that the Chelsea fans would rather see at the club in Mourinho’s place.
Juan Mata was the darling of Chelsea, a repeated Player of the Year award winner, but Jose wanted him gone. The fans didn’t question it. If Jose wants it, they will support it, be it in the Champions League or Championship.
He is the one they have unwavering faith in – and so they should.
The press have been waiting for this moment since he first made that infamous run down the touchline at Old Trafford, and went on to lift the greatest prize in club football with the most unfaniced team in the competition.
A decade of almost pure success followed, in various countries, with various teams. Mourinho is a winner through and through, and back-to-back defeats were almost unthinkable, let alone months and months of losses.
Now those losses have come, as have ten years of headlines journalists have been waiting for.
To be as successful as Mourinho, you make enemies – certainly the way he manages, and now they’re swirling, baying for blood.
For once, Abramovich and Chelsea fans have refused to give them any. If Jose is on death row, the fans have granted him more than one stay of execution, and plan to keep on doing so.
Mourinho claimed that he would take the losses with the same ‘honesty and dignity’ as he did the victories.
Now while his detractors will tell you he has maintained the same level – or lack thereof – of dignity throughout the last decade, it stands to reason Mourinho is a bad loser.
So he should be. A winner, a fighter who is used to victories week in week out doesn’t know how to lose, and nor should they.
Arsene Wenger used to be a horrendous loser – before it started happening on a bi-weekly basis. Fergie was a terrible loser. As is Pep Guardiola.
Roger Federer was hailed as the most graceful sportsman on the planet, with more dignity than anyone past or present – until Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic emerged.
Then, even Mr Nice Guy of tennis showed some steel and an edge – winners don’t like to lose, and are bad at accepting it.
Chelsea fans would be far more concerned if Mourinho started to accept defeat than with his reactions in the last few months.
Yes, blaming everything from the computer to the officials might wear a bit thin, but the minute Mourinho thinks a loss is acceptable is the minute he needs to retire.
It may have only been a hard fought win over a lesser team in a group stage match, but the win over Dynamo Kiev will go down as one of the best in Mourinho’s career, because the fans and their reaction to him.
Mourinho said as much after the game, claiming it was ‘not normal’ for fans to behave like that, and he ‘didn’t know how to repay them’.
He looked as emotional as we’ve seen him for a while when his name rung out, but when the crowd rose for him, the bond between Chelsea fans and their manager was made clear.
Not only to Mourinho, because he surely knew it already, but to the press, to Abramovich – and more importantly, to any players who had a notion they could under perform and get Mourinho sacked.
They would be wise to take heed of Iker Casillas. A hero at Madrid. The captain, San Iker. But clash with Jose and you will lose.
Mourinho also lost that war, and his job eventually, but Casillas saw his bond with many of the fans broken beyond repair, his reputation as a player and a person damaged and his fellow players turn on him.
To this day, Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso will defend Mourinho at any opportunity, and it’s well known their relationship with Casillas is destroyed.
Mourinho may yet lose his job at Chelsea, but the fans won’t forget just how responsible some of the players are for that.
As John Terry said in his press conference ahead of the Champions League clash (arguably his finest performance of the season so far) Mourinho has defended his players for so long, now it’s their time to step up and protect him.
The fans certainly are, down to their last chant, and Mourinho will be hoping that his stars of last season are finally ready to do the same.
He’s been the Special One, the Happy One (and the Paranoid One) but now Jose is the Supported One.
Being the Supported One might not be as fun for Jose as being the Special One, but it’s the thing that has kept him in a job.