Jose Mourinho is a lucky man. Hes still at Stamford Bridge after a season without a trophy on Roman Abramovichs watch. EPA/ANDY RAIN

As Chelsea managers go, Jose Mourinho is entitled to feel doubly special tonight. He gets to start a new season having failed to land a major trophy in the previous one — and for the second time.

He is the only manager to pull this off under Roman Abramovich. Once in 2007-08, when all he held was the FA Cup, which barely registers at Stamford Bridge these days, twice with this campaign. A third time? No-one gets that lucky with Abramovich in charge and, being a smart cookie, Mourinho knows it. For all the talk of long-term projects at Stamford Bridge, he has always been well aware of the requirement.

It was there in the postscript to his little horse speech in February last year, following Chelsea’s win at Manchester City. Having delivered his famous equine analogy, about nurturing his fragile little colt with milk and teaching it to jump, Mourinho paused. ‘Next year,’ he said, winked and clicked his tongue, twice. He wasn’t alluding to the FA Cup then, either.

That aside wasn’t widely recorded because it isn’t easy to document sounds and non-verbal forms of communication in newspaper quotations. Yet it said so much about the task ahead for Mourinho. By tipping his team for the title the following year, the manager as good as admitted that he would not get away with falling short a second time.

When Mourinho was first retained after a disappointing campaign, he did not make it out of September. Second time around, he has been given more time, a year to shape a younger team and this whole season to make it work — but one imagines there the indulgence ends.

It could explain why, having promised sweetness and light last season, Mou-rinho is already on a war footing against his adversaries, Manuel Pellegrini and Arsene Wenger. There is no point playing down Chelsea’s ambition any more, and no point trying to win hearts and minds. Mourinho knows what is expected and the attitude that is required to deliver it. He is preparing for his toughest season.

Expect a return to the Mourinho of old. This is the hardest league to win in Europe. Other competitions have stronger individual clubs, or might be healthier philosophically, but none possess six, maybe even seven teams, who kicked off the season thinking they could win it. The stakes are extraordinarily high for Mourinho — for where would he go from here, if failing to placate Abramovich?

He will never be unemployed — but having already worked at Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Porto, it is hard to imagine he can achieve another professional promotion, unless Laurent Blanc makes a mess of Paris Saint- Germain. Yet Mourinho has already spoken of the Premier League as the only place to be. He will not want to leave, without the departure coming on his terms. So this campaign is big, big, big. The little horse has run its race. Its trainer knows what the owner expects from here. Arkle, not the Pony Puff Princess. – Daily Mail