Jose Mourinho feels aggrieved that Antonio Conte has been praised for Chelsea’s defensive prowess this season. Antonio Conte isn’t bothered.
The Manchester United boss claimed that he was criticized for playing with a defense-first mentality, while Conte has been praised for similar tactics this year, which has seen Chelsea vault to a prime position at the top of the table and 10 points clear.
“For many, many years in my career — especially in this country when my teams were ruthless and when my teams were phenomenal defensively and very good on the counter-attack — I listened, week after week, how that was not enough in spite of winning the title three times,” Mourinho said on Saturday. “It looks like, this season, to be phenomenal defensively and in counter-attack is art, so it is a big change in England.”
Chelsea boss Conte wasn’t moved by the comments, brushing it aside that Mourinho was simply having some fun. “I don’t like to reply to the other coaches,” Conte said on Sunday following Chelsea’s draw at Burnley. “I don’t like this joking. He’s playing. I have the experience to understand this.”
The two coaches have a bit of history this season. Conte’s Chelsea took down Manchester United 4-0 back in October, and following the match, Mourinho was not pleased with the beatdown Chelsea put on his squad, having a lengthy postmatch conversation with Conte. Neither manager would elaborate on what was said, but it was assumed that Mourinho was not pleased with Conte’s animated celebration on scoring the fourth and final goal.
“When you work very hard and win, it’s important to celebrate,” Conte said after the October match. “But I prefer to win a war, not a battle.” The two teams meet again at Old Trafford on April 15.