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Jose Mourinho vs Claudio Ranieri: Rivals prepare to meet again when Man Utd host Leicester on Saturday
Last Updated: 24/09/16 6:11pm
Manchester United’s clash with Leicester City on Saturday pits Jose Mourinho against Claudio Ranieri once more. It’s a meeting of two very different characters and a rivalry that’s turned on its head in the past year, writes Adam Bate…
Nobody would have been particularly surprised if they'd been told in August of last year that the champions would be walking out at Stamford Bridge on the final day of that season.
With Leicester the opponents, such a scenario would have been expected to cast Claudio Ranieri in the harmless bystander role for which Jose Mourinho presumably felt the affable Italian was ideally suited. Warm applause. Fond memories. Just give Jose the medal.
As everyone knows, it didn't quite work out that way.
Not only was Mourinho long gone from Chelsea by the time all four corners of the Bridge had showered Ranieri with acclaim for this most extraordinary of triumphs, but he'd been seen off from his job in the earlier fixture between the sides five months earlier.
Mourinho's season was already in tatters, but seldom had his struggling side been made to look quite as pedestrian as they were that December night at the King Power Stadium. Jamie Vardy scored the first before Riyad Mahrez outwitted Cesar Azpilicueta for a second.
Ranieri resisted any urge to gloat. There was no need. Mourinho was gone by Thursday. The man who defines himself by his victories, vanquished by someone he'd styled as a loser.
"I am not like Mourinho. I don't have to win things to be sure of myself," Ranieri had said when challenged over his record back in 2008. Mourinho's response was typically barbed.
"I guess he's right with what he said. I am very demanding of myself and I have to win to be sure of things," said the Portuguese. "This is why I have won so many trophies in my career.
"Ranieri on the other hand has the mentality of someone who doesn't need to win. He is almost 70 years old. He has won a Super Cup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality. He's old and he hasn't won anything.
"I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans. Ranieri had been in England for five years and still struggled to say 'good morning' and 'good afternoon'."
In 2010, with Mourinho's Inter and Ranieri's Roma locked horns in a battle for the Serie A title, this personality clash came to the fore once more, with the former suggesting that the club from the capital might offer financial incentives to Siena for them to beat his side on the final day.
"This is not the kind of football I like," said Ranieri in response. "I'm different as I like respect and I give respect. It's too easy to motivate a squad by creating a siege mentality and feeling under attack from everyone. Sport is an important vehicle for Italian society.
"Behaving like this is launching ticking time bombs. I am a man of sport and I like football. Is Mourinho a phenomenon? It is the media that gives him that aura. For me he is a good coach and I won't add anything more."
The Coppa Italia final - a bad-tempered affair in which Francesco Totti was sent off - had stoked up the rivalry. Inter won 1-0 with Ranieri's decision to get his players to watch the film Gladiator for inspiration not proving a success. Much to Mourinho's amusement.
"Before the final, I watched six Roma games to find their weak points, spending three hours on each at the computer, running programmes that help my work," said Mourinho.
"Of course, it's easier to just watch a movie, but Ranieri has forgotten his players are champions and not children. If before a match I made my team watch Gladiator, they'd start laughing or call the doctor asking if I was ill.
"It's certainly not my fault if, in 2004 after coming to Chelsea and asking why Ranieri was replaced, I was told they wanted to win and it was never going to happen with him. It is really not my fault if he was considered a loser at Chelsea."
Ranieri didn't look much like a loser at Chelsea in May. This weekend he'll travel to Old Trafford to face his old adversary and the balance of power has shifted.
Mourinho's Manchester United are above Leicester in the league and are the ones still in the EFL Cup. But contrasting fortunes in Europe and back-to-back Premier League defeats for United mean it's the home side that really need the win on Saturday.
In truth, as both men would perhaps acknowledge, Mourinho has always seemed like the one who needs the win more. But as the last year has shown, that doesn't necessarily ensure you're the one who gets it.