International Soccer - England

Stoppage Time: A Special return for Mourinho

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

(Sports Network) - For the first time in the history of the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson was not patrolling the Manchester United sidelines on the opening weekend of the new season.

And while it was odd to see David Moyes looking on from the United bench, the 4-1 win at Swansea City on Saturday had a familiar feel.

Moyes has the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of a legend, and while his debut was watched with tremendous scrutiny on Saturday, the return of Jose Mourinho to the Chelsea sideline one day later was just as anticipated.

The Special One made quite a mark at Stamford Bridge in his first tenure, winning back-to-back league titles in his first two seasons while helping to lift Chelsea to prominence in Europe.

But after just one more season, Mourinho clashed with owner Roman Abramovich and abruptly made his exit early into his fourth campaign, going on to win the Champions League with Inter Milan as well as La Liga with Real Madrid.

During his time with both Inter and Madrid, Mourinho always hinted at a return to England, and when he took his seat on the bench on Sunday at Stamford Bridge against Hull City, it felt like he never left.

The reception he got from the Chelsea fans was outstanding, and it also let him know that the expectations for this season are as high as ever.

"It was fantastic, it gives me more responsibility I guess, but at the same time they know I will give everything for this club," Mourinho said of the crowd reaction. "The reception was amazing, I was expecting that because I played here with Inter as an opponent and it was fantastic, so I could imagine that coming back to Chelsea it would be like that."

In a way, it seems as though Mourinho is returning to London to take care of some unfinished business after the way he left.

The 50-year-old won just about everything except the Champions League in his three-plus seasons at Chelsea the first time around, but now he will be charged with bringing the league title back to London.

Since Mourinho left, that trophy has resided in Manchester for five of the last six years, with the Blues winning the crown under the direction of Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10.

But with four of the top six teams in last season's standings changing managers, the title race is believed to be wide open.

Chelsea wasn't a real threat to win the league last term, but with Mourinho in charge and a talented group of young players at his disposal, this year figures to be different.

The style wasn't quite the same in Sunday's 2-0 win over Hull, but the result was a familiar one with Chelsea dominating a visiting opponent with a clinical performance.

Mourinho's old Chelsea squad was organized at the back and had a midfield destroyer in Claude Makelele that allowed players like Frank Lampard and Michael Essien to get forward in attack.

This version of Chelsea has a bit more flair and creativity, while the older edition was more direct.

Young players like Oscar, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne will provide plenty of energy, with veteran players John Terry, Ashley Cole and Lampard bringing valuable experience having played under Mourinho previously.

Lampard was strongly rumored to be leaving Chelsea over the summer, with Major League Soccer as a potential destination. But Mourinho's return has breathed new life into not only the veteran midfielder, but the rest of the squad, which played with a bit more swagger on Sunday.

"There is a lovely buzz around the place," Lampard told the club's official website. "I am happy myself to be here and I was very excited in the morning to get going again and the whole stadium was buzzing with the manager returning."

"We know what the club means to him and what he means to the fans. You can also see what it means to him. All it needs now is for us to go and perform consistently and keep getting results."

Under Mourinho Chelsea is sure to get its share of results this season. The question is will he prove to be as Special the second time around?

08/19 14:56:02 ET

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