José Mourinho stirs the pot with comments about referee ahead of trip to Anfield

United manager could face a backlash from the FA for comments about Anthony Taylor

Manchester United manager José Mourinho gives orders to captain Wayne Rooney, who was recently dropped from the team. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AFP

Manchester United manager José Mourinho gives orders to captain Wayne Rooney, who was recently dropped from the team. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AFP

 

Liverpool v Manchester United

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José Mourinho may have talked himself into trouble with the English Football Association for the first time as Manchester United manager after breaking the rules forbidding members of his profession from speaking about referees in the buildup to matches.

Mourinho, a serial offender when it comes to the FA’s disciplinary unit, will be contacted by the governing body after questioning whether it would be difficult for Anthony Taylor to have “a very good performance” when United visit Liverpool tonight.

No suggestion

For that reason the Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, declined to discuss Taylor’s appointment and kept out of the debate about whether it was fair in such an important fixture for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited to select a referee who lives in Altrincham, only seven miles from Old Trafford.

Second Captains

Taylor’s appointment has been challenged by Keith Hackett, once the referees’ chief, and his close ally Mark Halsey even though the man in question is affiliated to the Cheshire FA and a season-ticket holder at Altrincham, with no ties to either Premier League club in the Anfield fixture. Mourinho will now be asked for an official explanation after voicing his own concerns about whether the publicity might affect the referee’s decision-making.

“I think Mr Taylor is a very good referee but because such pressure is being put on him I think it will be difficult for him to have a very good performance at Anfield,” he said. “I don’t really want to say too much more on the matter. I have my view but I have learned a lesson, if you want to call it that, by being punished so many times for my words about referees.”

The FA still considers that a breach of the rule that was introduced in 2009 to prevent managers saying anything – positive, negative or otherwise – about match officials, in part because of the suspicion that Alex Ferguson and others were using pre-match press conferences to influence referees.

Earlier that year, David Moyes, then the manager of Everton, had publicly questioned Mike Riley’s appointment for their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, saying it had been suggested to him that the referee was a supporter of Ferguson’s team.

Ferguson became the first manager to be charged with improper conduct for such an offence, in May 2011, because of comments he had made about Howard Webb before a game against Chelsea. It was Ferguson’s sixth FA charge in five years for comments he had made about, or to, referees although the difference was he had actually been praising Webb, describing him as “definitely the best referee in the country”.

Carlo Ancelotti, then at Chelsea, was subsequently charged after United pointed out that the Italian had also talked up Webb before the match.

Tony Pulis, then Stoke City’s manager, was also charged for a similar offence preceding his team’s FA Cup semi-final against Bolton Wanderers. In all three cases the FA issued each manager with an official warning that if it happened again they would be in more serious trouble.

Injury concerns

Champions League

Defeat for United would leave them six points behind their fierce north-west rivals and encourage the portrayal of Mourinho as a manager left behind by the pressing instincts of Klopp and co, despite being only eight league matches into his Old Trafford reign.

Klopp has injury concerns, however, over two thirds of his central midfield in Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum.

The German has ridiculed suggestions Mourinho is a manager in decline and insisted his rival remains a fierce competitor who knows how to restore success at Manchester United.

While Klopp has created a clear style of play at Anfield, and Pep Guardiola likewise at Manchester City, Mourinho is yet to have a similar impact at Old Trafford or settle on a consistent team.

But Liverpool’s manager argued: “Who said this? Four people in Liverpool? It’s bullshit. Rubbish. Who says this? He has started badly at United? They won their first games. So now you are giving B grades for winning?” Guardian service

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