LONDON • Jose Mourinho has insisted Manchester United's meeting with Premier League leaders Chelsea tomorrow is just another game, even though he was branded a Judas by his former club's fans at Stamford Bridge last month, which prompted a retort of "Judas is still No. 1" in reference to the three league titles he secured as manager there.
That FA Cup quarter-final on March 13 ended in a 1-0 defeat for United and he also faced hostility during the 0-4 Premier League loss at Chelsea on Oct 23.
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."
United's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are in the balance as they are fifth (57 points), four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.
United still have to play away to Pep Guardiola's side, so a top-four finish remains in their hands. But their run-in appears particularly tough, also featuring games at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Of the challenge of playing Chelsea, who are 18 points ahead of United, Mourinho again pointed to his side's hectic schedule.
On Thursday, United drew 1-1 at Anderlecht in the Europa League quarter-final first leg and the return comes next 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 do it very well."
He branded his misfiring players as "sloppy" after they conceded a late equaliser in Belgium. United had several chances to kill off the tie after Henrikh Mkhitaryan's first-half opener from a tight angle.
But their failure to convert chances - a failing all season long - came back to haunt them, as Leander Dendoncker headed home four minutes from time.
"The result is positive," insisted the Portuguese. "(But) the result should be much better, and we can only blame ourselves and we didn't play in attack with that instinct.
"We stopped our counter-attacks because of sloppy decisions, sloppy touches on the ball."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS