Jose Mourinho speaks to Sky Sports ahead of Man Utd’s trip to Liverpool, insisting his team are better than last season.
There are few clubs the Portuguese has inflicted more pain on than Liverpool.
His first trophy in English football came against them in the 2005 League Cup, and among the 28 Premier League points he has taken from the red half of Merseyside are the three his Chelsea team won at Anfield in 2014, when Steven Gerrard and Co had been on the cusp of the title.
On the other side of it, there are few clubs that have inflicted more pain on him. Defeats at Anfield in the Champions League semi-finals of 2005 and 2007 must rank among the most painful of Mourinho’s career.
But despite all of it, the good and the bad; the gesture, the ghost goal, the penalty shoot-out and the slip. It appears Jose Mourinho really rather likes Liverpool.
“I like to play against the best teams, I like to play against the best clubs and I like to play at the best stadiums – the stadiums with more history,” he says of the rivals he’s come up against more times than any side except Barcelona.
“And you are right, at Anfield I’ve had great moments and I’ve had bad moments. They have had happiness against me, they have had very sad moments against me
“[Now] if they respect me as much as I respect them, we are going to have another one of those matches.”
Of course, now Mourinho is Manchester United manager, his history with Liverpool adds to a much bigger rivalry. One that really doesn’t need adding to, a derby game that doubles up as one of the biggest matches in world football and a clash between the two most successful sides in England. Or as Mourinho puts it, ‘just another game’.
“It’s for three points, not four. Maybe if we were in a moment of the season where it was a duel between two teams it would mean more but it’s not the case.
“At the same time, in these kinds of matches, every single moment plays a part. We are playing against a good team with very good players.”
Like last season United travel to Anfield for the eighth game of the season. After that game Mourinho was criticised for United’s defensive approach – despite his tactics shutting down Liverpool’s attacking play and earning the away side a point.
Back then though United were stuttering and Mourinho was still getting to know his players. This time, they’re in full flow.
“I think we are a better team [than we were]. You can say, like some people do, we have not played one of the top five teams but last season we did not beat West Ham at home, last season we did not beat Everton at home or Southampton away.
“I think it would be unfair to say Lukaku and Matic did not make an impact, we have to admit that and give them what they deserve.
“But also the team give Matic and Lukaku the conditions to arrive the way they have.
“Globally we are a better team, does that mean we are going to be as successful as last season, winning two titles? I don’t know. But we are better.”
Last season’s trophies, of course, were the League Cup and Europa League. This time they look set to challenge for bigger prizes. Though Mourinho refuses to accept this Saturday’s Anfield test will be the truest indication yet of their credentials.
“This is press talk, or pundit talk: ‘We have something to prove, Lukaku has to score, we have to win [is what they say]’.
“We have to prove nothing. We have our objectives for the season, we know where we want to go and how we have to go.
“One match, one result, one performance – that’s not going to change anything.”