Just after Chelsea had fallen behind to Basle in the Champions League last night, the Sky Sports commentator asked whether Chelsea’s youngsters truly had it in them to drag themselves back into the game.
I thought it seemed a fairly astonishing thing to say given the experience within the Stamford Bridge team’s first x11, and it is an obvious example of the media swallowing whatever baloney their beloved ‘Special One’ tosses out to them in his press conferences, hook, line, and sinker. You see, Mourinho has already developed a narrative about his ‘young and immature’ Chelsea side and it seems a lot of lazy journalists aren’t even questioning the veracity of his comments.
Six years ago this week, the Portuguese storyteller was spinning another yarn. Then he was bemoaning the fact that he could “no longer buy class one eggs from Waitrose” (i.e. Abramovich had put the kibosh on his splashing the cash). This, Mourinho argued, was the primary reason that Chelsea had failed to beat Rosenberg, again in the Champions League, in front of a lot of blue seats and not many fans at Stamford Bridge.
Jose was sacked not long after.
And so, it was interesting that he returned to his ‘clever’ eggs analogy prior to the Basel clash this week. Chelsea’s ‘babies’, he claimed, were: “beautiful, young eggs. Eggs that need a Mum, in this case… a Dad… to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blanket and work and improve them. One day the moment will arrive when the weather changes, the sun rises, you break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level.”
Awwww. Ain’t that sweet? (I wonder if he’ll continue with these egg-based analogies by throwing in a few more eggy puns between now and the end of the season: will he, for example drop a couple of his famous ‘Three Musketeers’ and excuse it by talking about being unable to make an omelette without breaking eggs? Already he’s questioning whether Chelsea have the “maturity and personality” to progress through the group stage. No yolk.)
Problem is, Mourinho’s thinking gives off a proper eggy whiff of his bending the truth (despite the fact the commentators and journos seemed to have swallowed it and thought it top notch eggs benedict). So, just for fun, I thought I’d take a look at both Chelsea and United’s starting line-ups in this week’s Champions League clashes. And is Mourinho feeding us a stinker?
Here’s Chelsea’s x11 and their ages: Cech (31), Ivanovic (29), Cahill (28), Luiz (26), Cole (32), Lampard (35), Oscar (22), Van Ginkel (20), Willian (25), Eto’o (32), Hazard (22) – Average Age: 27.45
And here’s the MUFC line-up v. Bayer Leverkusen: De Gea (22), Smalling (23), Evra (32), Ferdinand (34), Vidic (31), Carrick (32), Kagawa (24), Fellaini (25), Valencia (28), Rooney (27), Van Persie (30) – Average Age: 27.09
So, not a lot of difference in it, but United just shade it in terms of the embryonic average age of our starting x11 (which, incidentally, is not so far from our best x11, give or take a Rafael for a Smalling and a Nani, maybe, in there somewhere). Neither side are exactly fledglings – Chelsea have never been fledglings under Abramovich…
The main point I’m trying to make is that Mourinho seems to be asking the media to go easy on his foetal youngsters, such as the 22-year-olds Oscar and Hazard. But think on this. Remember all the stick our good egg, 22-year-old ‘keeper De Gea, received from pretty much every angle from the press a couple of years back? When he was 20? Ridiculously young for a ‘keeper? Remember all the stick he took this week when he was deemed at fault for the second German goal?
The media have never gone easy on United – look at all the Mark Halsey brouhaha this week. United came under the microscope because of the relationship between Fergie and Halsey (which generally came about through their mutual support of the Christie cancer care hospital in Manchester). Chelsea, and Mourinho, seemed to slip under the radar. This despite the fact Halsey admitted to having had a five-star holiday for him and his family paid for by none other than the Special One.
Fair enough, Chelsea have some young players in their side. Some highly promising ones too. But don’t keep scrambling our eggs about it, Mourinho, eh? Every successful team has a blend of innocence and experience, of vital youth and been-there-bought-the-tee-shirt knowhow, United in particular. You can win things with kids. As long as they are good eggs.