'Less and less' love lost for Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will welcome former team Chelsea and Antonio Conte, with whom he was recently at loggerheads, to Old Trafford knowing the Premier League title is beyond the reach of both teams who began the season as title con
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will welcome former team Chelsea and Antonio Conte, with whom he was recently at loggerheads, to Old Trafford knowing the Premier League title is beyond the reach of both teams who began the season as title contenders.

Portuguese not feeling nostalgic against ex-team Chelsea with top-four spot at stake

LONDON • Jose Mourinho admitted that Manchester United's Premier League clash with Chelsea tomorrow is a big one but not because he is going up against his former side.

The United manager knows that both sides are playing for second place as his love for Chelsea diminishes with each passing year.

"You are right, this is a big game," said Mourinho, who won three league titles over two successful spells at Stamford Bridge.

"For the past 10 to 15 years, Man United and Chelsea are big matches and this is one more.

"These are different circumstances because many times they were matches for the title, this time we have both, us and them, that it is not the case, but we both play for top four and it is a big game independent of what is at stake...

"To play against Chelsea will mean less and less and less with the years.

"Of course, I left already a couple of years ago. Next season it would be three years ago, so step by step that feeling of I was their manager disappears so the real meaning of it is two of the best teams in England and biggest clubs in England."

United and Chelsea are four points and one point respectively above fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who could ramp up the pressure by winning tomorrow's early kick-off at Crystal Palace.

The stakes will already be high enough without any pre-match trash talking as Mourinho will be desperate to avoid a fourth defeat in five matches against Chelsea since taking over at United in 2016.

An away victory, and a first league double over United for eight years, would see Chelsea move level on points with Mourinho's side, with 10 games remaining.

A win for United, however, would leave Chelsea glancing anxiously behind them.

"United are always dangerous," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte told a press conference yesterday.

"They have fantastic players and this team is very physical, they have a great physicality. We must pay great attention because when you play Manchester United you have to know that anything can happen.

"It is a massive game for us and we have to do the best and do 120 per cent of our strength to try to get three points."

From the moment Conte's Chelsea thrashed Mourinho's United 4-0 to kick-start their title charge last season, a simmering tension has existed between the pair. But the Italian refused to entertain questions about his relationship with Mourinho.

Conte stressed yesterday that "my focus is only on Chelsea" but did offer his take when asked about United midfielder Paul Pogba potentially starting on the bench.

"My expectation is to see him on the pitch, if he stays out it will be better," he said of the Frenchman, who had been left out of United's starting line-up for the goal-less draw against Sevilla in their Champions League last 16 first leg on Wednesday.

"As I said before, we are talking about a top player. Every coach has to find the right way to manage him. But I think that Pogba is showing at United that he is a top player."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2018, with the headline ''Less and less' love lost for Mourinho'. Print Edition | Subscribe