All’s fair in love and fi­nals for Fabre­gas

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT -

LON­DON: Chelsea’s Cesc Fabre­gas says he owes Manchester United man­ager Jose Mour­inho a debt of grat­i­tude for hand­ing him a sec­ond chance in English football.

The Span­ish mid­fielder will hope to ruin Mour­inho’s day in to­mor­row’s FA Cup fi­nal against Manchester United and sal­vage some­thing from a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign.

But win or lose, Fabre­gas says he is full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the man who signed him for Chelsea in 2014, dur­ing Mour­inho’s sec­ond spell in charge at Stam­ford Bridge.

Af­ter three years at boy­hood club Barcelona, fol­low­ing a move from Arse­nal where Fabre­gas spent al­most a decade, the 31-year-old proved a piv­otal fig­ure as Chelsea claimed the 2014-15 ti­tle, pro­vid­ing a league-lead­ing 18 goal as­sists.

“I love him. I al­ways say that. I owe him a lot be­cause he brought me here, I will al­ways re­mem­ber that,” Fabre­gas told reporters at Chelsea’s train­ing ground this week.

“My first year here, (for­mer Arse­nal man­ager) Arsene (Wenger) had al­ways treated me like a son.

“But the clos­est any­one has been to him was Jose. The way he treated me, the way he made me feel, how he let me leader of the team from one.

“This was fan­tas­tic and in all the four years since I joined Chelsea, now they will al­ways stay with me. This ex­pe­ri­ence is thanks to him.”

Yet Fabre­gas has spent a large part of his career in op­po­si­tion to Mour­inho – as he will do again at Wem­b­ley to­mor­row when Chelsea hope to make up for fin­ish­ing fifth in the Premier League with a first FA Cup win since 2012.

The early years of Fabre­gas’s stint at Arse­nal co­in­cided with Mour­inho’s ar­rival as man­ager of Chelsea, while he was also part of a Barcelona side that was vy­ing for Span­ish supremacy with Mour­inho’s Real Madrid.

“We have our his­tory be­tween us,” Fabre­gas said. “I played for Arse­nal and him at Chelsea.

Barcelona with him Real Madrid. We were con­fronting each other, but then we hum­bled our­selves and started a good re­la­tion­ship.

“This is very nice but hope­fully it will not be his day (to­mor­row) and Chelsea can win,” the Span­ish World Cup win­ner said.

Apart from Fabre­gas, sev­eral other play­ers from the 2014-15 ti­tle-win­ning team in­clud­ing Gary Cahill, Wil­lian and Eden Haz­ard will be in­volved to­mor­row.

While they will all be fa­mil­iar with Mour­inho’s meth­ods, Fabre­gas knows their old man­ager will con­jure some­thing new for a one­off game that means so much to both teams.

“In the last two years we played many games against them and he has changed the sys­tem many times. I am sure he will change some­thing again on Satur­day. You can ex­pect that.

“We just need to pre­pare our game and fo­cus on our­selves. We don’t need to be think­ing too much about what they are go­ing to do and we have to do what we do.”

United fin­ished run­ners-up in the Premier League and are favourites against a Chelsea side who ended the league sea­son with a 3-0 de­feat by New­cas­tle United.

Fabre­gas said last sea­son’s fi­nal when Chelsea lost to Arse­nal af­ter win­ning the Premier League ti­tle showed why the Wem­b­ley show­piece is so hard to call. “Any­thing can hap­pen re­ally,” he said. “Last year ev­ery­one was say­ing Chelsea will win it and we played one of our worst games of last sea­son.

“Mour­inho pre­pares fi­nals very well and I am sure An­to­nio (Conte) will do the same.” be a day

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