José Mourinho says Chelsea clash is just another game
Manchester United manager says match against former club ‘no difference for me’
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho: branded a traitor by his former club’s fans at Stamford Bridge last month. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
José Mourinho has insisted Manchester United’s meeting with Chelsea on Sunday is just another game, even though he was branded a traitor by his former club’s fans at Stamford Bridge last month, which prompted a retort of “Judas is still No1” in reference to the three league titles he won as manager there.
The FA Cup quarter-final on March 13th ended in defeat for United and Mourinho also faced hostility during the 4-0 Premier League loss at Chelsea in October. Given this backdrop he was asked what his emotion will be when Antonio Conte’s side visit Old Trafford.
“You say that word emotion,” he said. “For me, it is just a game. One more game. No difference for me, not at all.” This despite having also been taunted by some Chelsea fans with chants of “You’re not special any more” and “It’s all your fault” – a reference to the club’s lack of European football, having finished 10th last season after Mourinho’s sacking in December 2015.
United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via a top-four finish are in the balance. They are fifth, four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand. United still have to play at the Etihad Stadium and their run-in appears particularly tough, also featuring games at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
On the challenge of playing Chelsea, who are 18 points ahead of United, Mourinho again pointed to his side’s hectic schedule. United drew 1-1 at Anderlecht in the Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday.
Mourinho said: “First of all, some guys are fresh [Chelsea], some guys are tired [United]. That’s very important in football. But, for some reason, they are top of the league. It’s not just because they are fresh. It’s also because they have individual quality and they have collective quality. They have a certain style of play, they stick to it, they do it very well.
“Not every team defends with 11 players and they defend with 11 players. Not every team is so objective in their counterattacks and they have individual players that can also resolve problems, so they are a very strong team.”
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones may return for the last Premier League match of the season and are expected to be available for the Europa League final, if United progress to that stage, but Juan Mata has no chance of playing again this season.
Meanwhile, Luke Shaw believes he has “turned the corner” after recent criticisms of the left-back by his manager. Shaw was an unused substitute in the draw against Anderlecht having played the first 60 minutes against Sunderland last week.
Tough couple of weeks
“It’s the start I think of fully turning the corner, but it was obviously great,” said Shaw. “It what I needed after a tough couple of weeks of things that [Mourinho] had said, but I took it really good. I took it positively and when I came off the pitch and he said: ‘Good performance.’ It made me feel better as a person, made me sort of more confident than I already was.
“I have always been a hard worker but I think maybe if I look back I wasn’t doing as hard as he likes. We had a really good talk and he discussed what he wanted from me and I think even in a week and a half I have seen a massive change in myself, not just on the pitch and the training ground but off it as well.
“Now it is my time to fight until the end of the season and show the boss what I can do and what I can bring to help his team. Hopefully I can keep giving good performances and keep my spot in the team and push for the Europa League title and obviously the top four.”
– Guardian service