LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho intensified his war of words with Antonio Conte in bizarre fashion after his team's 2-0 FA Cup win over Derby on Friday, apparently referencing a match-fixing scandal in Italy.
He was responding to comments made by Chelsea boss Conte earlier in the day in which the Italian appeared to make disparaging statements about him.
Conte was even interpreted as suggesting that Mourinho may be suffering from "senile dementia" after the Portuguese had made a reference, 24 hours earlier, to his own behaviour and the fact that he no longer acts "like a clown" on the touchline.
Initially, he appeared to be backing Conte following the furore caused by his words on Thursday - only then to make the reference to match-fixing.
"I was asked about my passion and I was speaking about myself but then the question to the Chelsea manager was that I said he behaved like a clown," said the 54-year-old in his post-match conference, after goals from Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku put United through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
"Probably the journalist wanted to say that but didn't have the courage so he said 'Mourinho said you behaved like a clown'.
"I don't blame the Chelsea manager at all and I understand his reaction. I was speaking about myself, saying I don't need to behave like a clown to show passion...
I'M BAD BUT...
I celebrated goals running 50 metres, I celebrated goals sliding on my knees, celebrations jumping in the crowd... What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing.
'' JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, bringing up Conte's past.
"What I was trying to say that I behaved bad a few times but in this moment I control myself better."
The United boss then changed tack and referenced match-fixing.
"What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing," he added. The surprising reference to match-fixing drew a follow-up question as to whether it was directly aimed at Conte.
The 48-year-old Italian was acquitted of sporting fraud charges in 2016, having served a four-month ban in 2012 for cases which took place when he was in charge at Serie B side Siena in 2011.
... I"M NOT SENILE
Maybe sometimes, someone forgets what they said or his behaviour and sometimes I think there is, I don't know the name, 'demenza senile'.
'' ANTONIO CONTE, Chelsea manager, accusing Mourinho of continuing to look back at his time at the Blues.
But when mention was made of the accusations against Conte, Mourinho said: "Not me."
His reference to that controversy was just the latest twist in a verbal spat between the managers that seemed to have reached a climax earlier in the day when Conte was quizzed by reporters.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS