09 Mar Jose Mourinho returns fire at United critics and plays down Liverpool rivalry
Jose Mourinho hit back at critical pundits unable to “resolve their own problems when they were managers” ahead of Manchester United’s clash with rivals Liverpool.
Old Trafford hosts a mouthwatering encounter between second and third on Saturday lunchtime as Jurgen Klopp’s swashbuckling side look to usurp the Red Devils.
There has been much debate over how Mourinho will set up against Liverpool’s potent attack in a match that his side approach fresh from Monday’s remarkable 3-2 comeback win at Crystal Palace.
Former United defender Gary Neville was highly critical of aspects of his old team’s display. Ex-Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness has also been a regular critic of United this term, with Mourinho seemingly returning fire on the eve of the Saturday’s game.
“You know, some of the guys with an opinion they couldn’t resolve their own problems when they were managers,” Mourinho said.
“So, they are giving opinions like they have solutions for everything, but it is not like that. It is not like that.
“But they are in a position where they can give opinions about everything.
“Sometimes I read, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.
“Honestly, this week I was more focused on enjoying Champions League and Europa League and preparing my match than be focused on opinions.”
Neville has not returned to management since his ill-fated reign at Valencia ended in 2016, while Souness’ last role came at Newcastle in 2006.
Pundits were the subject of greater hostility than Liverpool in Mourinho’s pre-match press conference as he claimed to still not fully grasp the rivalry.
“I still don’t know (how much this match means) because in my mentality every match is the same and I’m not very good on that culture of ‘this rivalry is special’, ‘that match is special’ – I’ve never been very, very good at it,” the United boss said.
“I never looked to AC Milan as the biggest rival (when I was at Inter Milan), I never looked at Atletico Madrid as the enemy (when at Real Madrid), I never look to Spurs or to Arsenal as the big rival (when at Chelsea).
“I’ve never been very, very good on it. For me, it is just a big match: two historical clubs not just in England but in the world.
“In this moment, important points for top four, important points for second position that is better than third and fourth. But 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.”
Mourinho claims not to have felt any change around the club or the city ahead of Liverpool’s arrival, although he hopes United fans will have an edge on Saturday given his well-documented frustrations about the Old Trafford atmosphere.
“(The atmosphere) helps,” said the United boss, who can call upon Marouane Fellaini on Saturday after the midfielder’s recovery from knee surgery.
“Crystal Palace, I can imagine if we are losing 2-0 and our away fans, I don’t how many, 2,000 or something, we could feel disapproval and criticism or support.
“We were 2-0 down and we only felt support and with the 2-1 we kept feeling more belief and with 2-2 we were feeling that they wanted us to go for it.
“So, they can help and, of course, Old Trafford is a huge majority of Manchester United fans, so they can help.”