LONDON • Jose Mourinho has joined the chorus of criticism surrounding the appointment of Anthony Taylor to referee Manchester United's Premier League game at Liverpool today.
Taylor was born in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, and still lives close to Old Trafford, and complaints from Merseyside were magnified by the former head of referees Keith Hackett a few days ago when he described the situation as "grossly unfair".
Mourinho was not quite so outspoken, attempting to be diplomatic when the subject was raised, but he believes that between the original appointment and the outcry, the official is under unnecessary pressure.
"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," the United manager said.
Today's game is his first visit to Anfield as the man in charge of United, though what was always a red letter day on Alex Ferguson's calendar may not stand out quite so clearly for the Portuguese, who has been involved in some of the biggest football rivalries around Europe.
Ferguson was famously tasked with knocking Liverpool off their perch and that mission had been accomplished by the time Mourinho began collecting titles in English football.
"For me, playing against Liverpool is playing against another big club, and I always enjoy that," Mourinho said.
"You always want to test yourself against big opponents and Liverpool is a big opponent."
While he denies taking any personal satisfaction from beating the Reds, he seemed to harbour a grudge for a long time after the Luis Garcia "ghost goal" that sent Rafael Benitez's team to the 2005 Champions League final at Chelsea's expense.
He also appeared to particularly enjoy the occasion of Steven Gerrard's famous slip in 2014, when Brendan Rodgers' side were unexpected title challengers until beaten at home by a motivated Chelsea side who by that stage had nothing to play for.
"I celebrated that victory because of what happened in the build-up to the match," he said.
"The feeling before the match was that Liverpool would be the champions...
"Everyone was waiting for something different from what happened but in football, things do not always turn out the way you expect."