Exclusive: Jose Mourinho on Pep Guardiola and Man Utd title bid
By Patrick Davison
Last Updated: 10/09/16 2:41pm
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho speaks to Patrick Davison in an exclusive interview ahead of the Manchester derby, which is live on Sky Sports on Saturday lunchtime.
He admitted, within a few minutes of taking his seat, that he was, 'never careful with words'.
"That's not me," he continued. "And it's not Manchester United. They're too big for that."
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He was talking about his decision, discussed and agreed with the players, to announce that winning the title was their target this season, while other managers (who could he mean?) have been more 'defensive', preferring, publicly at least, to talk of 'easier, safer targets'.
Pep Guardiola knows better than most that Mourinho is not 'careful' with words.
While Barcelona manager, he was on the receiving end of them more than once.
But that wasn't the Mourinho who sat down with us this week. This week he was respectful, understated, and, as he has been since becoming Manchester United manager, focused entirely on his own club. In short, he was careful.
"I'm not interested," he says of all the hype and attention surrounding the build-up. "I just want to be at Old Trafford and the game to start. If I could I would play it tonight."
He didn't want to be drawn on Guardiola. Certainly he did not want to talk about their history. He doesn't feel their previous encounters, many of them big games shrouded in bad blood, will have any effect on the Manchester derby.
"They are completely different situations," says Mourinho, comparing the Premier League battles ahead of them with what's gone before.
"Barcelona is Barcelona, it's not Manchester City. Inter Milan and Real Madrid are not Manchester United.
"It's different players, different philosophies, different competitions.
"I can't see a point where there's any advantage or disadvantage because or teams have played so many times in the past."
Unlike the rest of us, Mourinho does not necessarily see the big spends and the presence now of possibly the best two managers in the world as the start of a new era.
"When I arrived in 2004, Manchester City were not fighting for the title," says Mourinho, recalling the start of his first stint in England with Chelsea.
"I left for Italy, I left for Spain. When I came back it was a different Man City. They won the title under Mancini, they won the title with Pellegrini. This was the start of the new decade.
"This season they are exactly the same as they have been - a very important title contender."
They are words you could read into I suppose. By no means a stinging attack but not exactly a ringing endorsement of what Guardiola might bring to City.
"They have a very good team, very good players and obviously a very good manager who contributes to them being a better team," he continues. "But no more than that.
"Every manager is different, every manager has new ideas. Sometimes the difference is significant, other times not so much.
"I've watched them play every game and obviously there are some details that are different in relation to the way Guardiola sees the game."
Interestingly, Mourinho feels the absence of Sergio Aguero makes the tactical challenge of stopping City harder, not easier.
With him, he'd know how they were going to play. Without the Argentine, he's not so sure.
Just one question really gets Mourinho going. And it's a simple one about the atmosphere at Old Trafford on derby day. He can't wait to experience it.
"Sometimes you play a home match and it doesn't really feel like home. To play at Old Trafford is to feel like you are at home," he says, recalling the experience of his first home game in charge against Southampton last month.
"I can imagine against our city rivals the feeling will be even better. The stadium will have a fantastic atmosphere, hopefully everything goes well and, if possible, we have three points in our pocket."
It hasn't always been the case during his rivalry with Guardiola. But this time Mourinho is ready for his players to do his talking for him. On the pitch.