Maurizio Sarri probably meant this as a compliment to Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.
It is unlikely it will come across that way ahead of United’s trip to Chelsea on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
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The Blues are unbeaten in all competitions under Sarri since he arrived in the summer and they sit joint-top of the Premier League with 20 points on the board after 24 games. Mourinho’s United have 13 points and their struggles have been well documented with the former Chelsea boss reportedly close to losing his job.
Sarri’s suggestion that United have the best squad in the PL may too feed into the narrative that United’s players are woefully underperforming under Mourinho.
“I think they are a very strong team. Maybe player-by-player, they are the best team in the league,” Sarri said. “At the moment City is more of a team, but player-by-player they are very, very strong. We are talking only about eight matches, they are doing well in the Champions League so they can improve in the Premier League, we are talking about two months.”
Okay, so United did finish second last season in the Premier League, so you can kind of understand what he’s getting at, especially with Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and David De Gea in their squad. But maybe he’s suggesting that the team itself just isn’t that solid a unit, which is certainly what we have all seen so far this season as United got off to their worst-ever start to a PL campaign.
Sarri went on to call for the media to show Mourinho more respect, with the Italian coach revealing his admiration for all that United’s manager has achieved in the game.
“We are talking about a coach that has won everything, everywhere, so I think you have to respect him. I think you all have to respect him,” Sarri told journalists.
After Mourinho felt out with Antonio Conte, the manager Sarri replaced at Chelsea, we should probably expect a more jovial greeting between himself and Sarri this Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri has shown he has a sense of humor and his laidback nature is a complete contrast to Antonio Conte’s demeanor on the sidelines.
Mourinho now receives a pretty mixed reaction from the Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge after his second spell in charge of the west London club ended on a sour note, but the fact he’s led them to three of their five PL titles all-time means he will still be lauded by the vast majority of those connected with Chelsea.
“It’s another game,” Mourinho said. “Would I celebrate like crazy if my team score a goal and get a victory, I don’t think so. I will try to control myself and respect my [old] supporters and my [old] stadium. Just that. Another match for me. I want to do well for my club.”
If you ask Sarri, he probably feels that Mourinho and United should be doing much better.
I wonder what Jose thinks about that…