Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho says playing Liverpool means more than facing his former club Chelsea.
The Portuguese is the most successful manager in the Stamford Bridge club’s history, having overseen three Premier League triumphs, an FA Cup victory and a trio of League Cup wins.
Both of Mourinho’s spells at the helm have ended amid acrimony and the public spat with current boss Antonio Conte has increased anticipation ahead of Sunday’s match against his former club.
However, the United boss claims facing Chelsea is not especially emotional, especially with Liverpool coming to Old Trafford next month.
“It’s any normal game and probably to play Liverpool in a couple of weeks’ time means more. Because for my club – and everyone knows that the most important thing is not me – and my club’s supporters to play Liverpool really has a special meaning,” Mourinho said.
“That’s the way I have to look at things.
“And I don’t have any bad feeling in relation to Chelsea Football Club to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to play against my former club, I am going to prove this, I am going to prove that’.
“I’m not going to prove anything. In fact, every club I left – by my decision or by the board, which Chelsea was the only one – every one of my former clubs I have a very good feeling.
“I’ve never played against Inter since I left, but I played against Porto, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The feeling is just a good one. Not a special feeling.”
While the matches carry equal importance regarding the league, Mourinho pointed out that for United fans he appreciates the “little extra adrenaline is not about Chelsea”.
But the Blues are a club where he is proud of his body of work, as well as the squad he left behind.
Mourinho’s in-depth knowledge of Chelsea’s players saw Ander Herrera deployed to mark Eden Hazard out of the game in last year’s 2-0 win for United at Old Trafford, although injury rules the Spaniard out this time.
“He is a player very difficult to neutralise,” the United manager said of Hazard.
“Of course, he is a very important player for them, but Willian is very important for them.
“They have other players that are very important, so it’s difficult to neutralise because of his individual qualities.”
Former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic would be one option if Mourinho decided to man-mark again, as would Scott McTominay.
The 21-year-old surprisingly started Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 clash at Sevilla instead of Paul Pogba, producing another solid display.
Having previously joked new Scotland manager Alex McLeish would be wise to call up the Lancastrian midfielder before England, Mourinho confirmed he has spoken to McTominay about the decision.
“I’ve given him my advice, but I think the advice of his parents is more important than mine,” he said.
“And I think his own heart is more important than my advice because my advice is purely by the career point of view.
The boss on @McTominay10: âThe trust and confidence I show towards Scott â heâs earned it step by step since he came to the first-team training sessions. I know what heâs good at, I know where he can improve and I think heâs going to be a really good player.â #MUFC pic.twitter.com/vXrfX8evUY— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 23, 2018
“I think more important than his career is his feelings, his family’s feelings, the way he feels about it and also the overall situation with him.
“I think he’s going to have a very good career independent of his national team choice – if he has the choice because maybe Scotland or England don’t want to select him, which is also possible.
“But I think the most important thing is for him to feel good with himself.”