United out to give Mourinho special win

Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney is set to lead his side's attack against Chelsea in the absence of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney is set to lead his side's attack against Chelsea in the absence of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.PHOTO: REUTERS

Fellaini believes there will be no repeat of previous rout when Jose returns to Chelsea

LONDON • Marouane Fellaini insists Manchester United are confident of avenging the worst moment of Jose Mourinho's reign when they return to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-finals today.

Mourinho's first visit to Stamford Bridge since his sacking as Chelsea boss last season ended in humiliation, as his former club romped to a 4-0 victory over United in October.

United have used the memory of that painful loss to fuel a dominant period which has seen them lose just twice in all competitions since.

They lifted the first major trophy of the Mourinho era with a League Cup final victory against Southampton last month and remain in contention for further silverware in the FA Cup and Europa League.

Chelsea have been equally powerful, opening up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League and advancing to the last eight of the FA Cup, as manager Antonio Conte chases a double in his first season as Mourinho's permanent replacement in west London.

Although United are 17 points behind Chelsea, their midfielder Fellaini is adamant they can turn the tables with a place in the semi-finals up for grabs.

"Obviously we lost there a few months ago, but now it is the FA Cup and we will see what happens," he said.

"It will be tight, I think. It is the FA Cup, it is one game.

"They are top of the league, they have confidence, they have great players, but we will show our quality there and see what happens.

"Of course they are confident so let's go there and see what we can do."

Chelsea's hopes of securing a club record 13th successive home win may have been boosted by the contrasting preparations the two teams have had.

While Conte and his players have been able to plot Mourinho's downfall at their training base since last Monday's league win at West Ham, United were forced to embark on a draining trip to Russian club Rostov on Thursday in the Europa League.

Mourinho bemoaned the poor quality of the pitch in Russia during the 1-1 draw in the last-16 first leg and, with his players not arriving home until the wee hours of Friday, it would be no surprise if they showed signs of fatigue at Stamford Bridge.

The United manager told the BBC that he is not surprised by Chelsea's success this season - but he is by their style of play.

"I'm surprised because I thought they were demanding a different kind of football," he said.

"I think they are very good defensively and I think they have fantastic players to be a counter-attack team and to kill opponents with three or four players."

Chelsea, along with Tottenham, have the best defensive record in the league - conceding just 20 goals in 27 games - and also possess the second most potent attack, with their 57 goals just one short of Liverpool's total.

Even so, Conte does not anticipate an easy ride from a team with United's strength in depth.

"We have a good identity, our team. But for sure it will be a really tough game for us," he said.

His wild touchline celebrations of his team's goals irked Mourinho in October and the United boss accused his rival of deliberately stirring up the Chelsea fans, who taunted their former idol with chants of "you're not special any more".

It will be fascinating to see what sort of reception Mourinho gets from Chelsea fans this time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V MANCHESTER UNITED

Singtel TV Ch109, tomorrow, 3.35am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'United out to give Mourinho special win'. Print Edition | Subscribe