Ahead of their clash with bitter rivals Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Jose Mourinho has hit out at criticism of the way his Manchester United team play.
The concern for neutrals, and United fans, across the world is that Mourinho will again “park the bus” as a fluid, dangerous Liverpool side visit United with Jurgen Klopp‘s side ready to attack.
Speaking to reporters on Friday ahead of the game at Old Trafford, Mourinho had this to say when asked about criticism of his team.
“Some of the guys with an opinion, they could not resolve their own problems when they were managers. It looks like they have solutions for everything,” Mourinho said. “It is not like that. They are in a position when they can give opinions about everything. Sometimes I read, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.”
Even if he hasn’t been listening to the pundits, Mourinho insists he hasn’t been listening to the fans on the streets in Manchester ahead of this game.
Ahead of the clash against Liverpool, Mourinho was asked if he now understands the rivalry better given he has now been in charge at United for almost two seasons.
“In my mentality, every match is the same. I have never looked to AC Milan as the biggest rival, I never looked at Atletico Madrid as the enemy. I never looked to Spurs or to Arsenal as a big rival. I’ve never been very good on it,” Mourinho said. “To me it is just a big match. Two historical clubs not just in England but in the world. I still don’t look to some matches as special opponents. It is just a big match because we are speaking about two big clubs.”
So, no real nibbles from Mourinho there. Given the importance of this game in terms of United being just once place and two points ahead of third-place Liverpool, many believe the Portuguese coach will once again set up his team to defend
“We have three matches now, Liverpool, Sevilla and Brighton. If you ask me if I could choose one to be the most important one, I can’t choose. The fans wouldn’t be happy if I say that Liverpool is the biggest match of the season and then Sevilla or Brighton is not a big match.” Mourinho said. “The most important are Liverpool because it is the next… Of course I want to win, it is a big match and big opponent, the team that is behind us. A team already in the Champions League last eight. Of course we want to win. Every opponent is a rival to me.”
Mourinho said that “you don’t win 10 points” for beating Liverpool and said United’s fans wouldn’t be happy if he said the Liverpool game was bigger than the upcoming matches, but we all know this is the game supporters in the street want to win.
Yes, Sevilla at home in the Champions League next week is huge with a place in the last eight on the line after the 0-0 draw in the first leg, while Brighton at home next Saturday in the FA Cup quarterfinal is a huge opportunity to make the FA Cup semis at Wembley.
Still, it feels like Mourinho downplaying this rivalry, one of the biggest in world soccer, is setting things up for him to make a few lineups changes and revert to his defensive tactics against a top six rival in the PL. I hope I’m wrong but that’s my hunch.
If Mourinho and United deliver a big win against Liverpool, expect him to be celebrating on the sidelines with a big smile on his face. Even if this is just a normal game…