The Chelsea manager, known as ‘The Special One’, tells Dominic Fifield that he is intent on managing his image as well as his team.

Jose Mourinho cracked into a knowing grin, as if anticipating the incredulity to come, before offering up his reinvention. “This year I will be more mellow, yes, mellow,” he said, the second mention delivered in his best mock Caribbean lilt. “I’ve thought about it and it’s something I want to do. I am what I am, but people use my personality to create something that is not true. If I’m emotional or react to something I think isn’t fair, it’s normal. But, over the last couple of years, people have created an image that is not correct. I shouldn’t feed it. Instead, I’ll be mellow.”

Seated in the air-conditioned chill of the Rodeo West ballroom of the plush Beverly Hills hotel, a venue about as far removed from a Premier League dug-out as is possible, it would have been easy to dismiss the concept of Mourinho the Mellow as implausible. Some might argue that this, after all, is a manager whose touchline antics and public rants have often been considerably more entertaining than his team’s football in recent times. Yet the Special One is entering uncharted territory this season. The time is ripe for a rethink.

This will be the 44-year-old’s fourth campaign with Chelsea and, after previous employment at Benfica, Leiria and Porto, that is the longest he has remained as manager of a club. At times last season, when his relationship with Roman Abramovich had fractured, it seemed that this would be a summer of divorce and upheaval. Instead, it has been one spent regrouping and shrewdly strengthening. Manchester United and Liverpool may have spent lavishly but Chelsea’s squad boasts ominous depth, with the Portuguese at the helm reinvigorated and relishing his new-found sense of perspective.

“I regret nothing in my life,” he said. “Even with the mistakes I’ve made, my life and my career are fantastic. I just feel this is a different moment for me. Four years in the same club makes things different. At the beginning of my career I was always ready for a change. But I’m happy here, so why should I change? A player’s career is very short and they have to do everything in the same day because, bang, their career could be over like that. My career is still young and I have many, many years in front of me. I don’t have to be in a hurry. I have to be calm, cool and relaxed.

“I won’t hug Arsene Wenger because he’s not a close friend, but he can say what he wants about us. He can complain about a lot of things as he did in the past. I’m not ready to react. I just want to concentrate on my work. I look at our opponents because I need to know the way they play, but I’m not interested in what they say. My relationships with other people will not change. My bottle of wine with (Sir Alex) Ferguson will still be a bottle of wine, my handshake with Wenger will still be a handshake. No problem.

“It’s the first time I have started a fourth season with a club, but it was always the intention to keep going. At my first meeting with (the chief executive) Peter Kenyon, Roman and (the club director) Eugene Tenenbaum three years ago we spoke about targets for 2015 and 2016. We are still going in that direction. I did a good job at Chelsea for three years and I want to do more. Things between me and the club are good, very good, and everything is completely clear. We understand each other and we have a common project.”

That centres upon regaining the Premier League title, and after the ructions of last season the new-found spirit of unity is refreshing. Mourinho was noticeably upbeat throughout the club’s pre-season tour of California. His players noted his laughing and joking with Abramovich. The media were treated to his cheery mood during a Press XI versus Chelsea management and backroom staff match at UCLA recently in which the Portuguese excelled in goal, feigning disbelief at the dismissal of his fitness coach, Rui Faria, and then suspiciously damaging a hamstring with penalties looming. He was duly replaced by the goalkeeping coach, Silvino Louro, capped 22 times for Portugal, for the shoot-out. The competitive instinct is still intact.

His rift with Abramovich now seemingly repaired, it is easy to see why Mourinho is so settled. “London is a top city — nobody disturbs me — and my life is a simple life. I don’t go out to stupid places and events all the time. My kids are like any other, and their mother (Tami) is a top mother, always very protective.

“Sometimes they don’t like it when I’m with them — like on the beach in Portugal building a sandcastle — and people come over and talk to me. The first time I went to Euro Disney with them, they told me afterwards that they didn’t want to come with me again. I do take the job home, but my wife has been with me for over 20 years and she knows me. She can smell when I need my space.

“I do lose my temper with my players. Sometimes I am angry because I am angry, and other times I am angry because I want myself to be angry. Playing with the emotions is good because 20 years ago this job was just about tactics but, year after year, people have realised that it’s much more than that. It is about leadership and control of the group. I have learnt. English football has had an impact on me and my way of life. That is why, this season, I will be more mellow.”

The change in personal outlook will be matched by a switch in his team’s philosophy. Chelsea’s three-game tour of the United States witnessed a more adventurous approach, albeit in games against comparatively weak opponents, with Mourinho reverting to the pace and thrust offered by wingers down either flank.

One of Abramovich’s complaints last season — despite the silverware won — was that the team upon whom he had lavished millions of pounds would invariably grind their way to victory. That, apparently, is to change. “Against a big team like us, the tendency is for our opponents to close us down, so we must open things up,” said the manager. “Width is important in a team like ours, and with the quality of our wingers we have to use them, unless something dramatic happens again and we have none to play. Last season we had no options, no wingers to play and no players to change, and it was just about survival. Now I want better results and to be more entertaining.

“I don’t agree when people say: ‘This team played fantastic and didn’t win.’ For me that’s the speech of the loser. Or when people argue: ‘This team played poorly and won.’ Winning because you are lucky happens once in a lifetime. Normally, results are balanced. Beauty is a controversial concept in football but, for me, it is about control through possession and allowing the creative players to play. Our wingers can bring that. Last season we played very well as a team with the resources available, but not with the same flair and the same dynamism of previous years. This season we have to go for it.”

Regular use of a 4-3-3 formation will leave Andriy Shevchenko competing with Didier Drogba up front. The 4-4-2 used at times in the United States offers Florent Malouda, Arjen Robben or Shaun Wright-Phillips an opportunity to hug the touchlines. The diamond, with its specific roles for the more experienced Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele, can be stored away for emergencies.

“It’s one of the good things about four consecutive seasons with not many changes in the group,” added Mourinho. “Year after year, experience after experience, the players are ready for it.” It remains to be seen whether the Premier League is ready for Mourinho the Mellow.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007