United ‘closed chap­ter’ for Mourinho with Spurs the fo­cus

The National - News - - SPORT - STEVE LUCKINGS

Jose Mourinho says his time at Manch­ester United is “a closed chap­ter” and that his only pri­or­ity now is se­cur­ing vic­to­ries for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

Mourinho makes his first re­turn to Old Traf­ford as an op­po­si­tion man­ager since be­ing sacked by the club 12 months ago. Spurs travel with wind in their sails and seek­ing a fourth straight win un­der Mourinho, who re­placed Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino as man­ager fol­low­ing the Ar­gen­tine’s dis­missal last month.

“This is a closed chap­ter for me,” Mourinho said. “I left the club, I took my time to process ev­ery­thing that hap­pened, I took my time to pre­pare my­self for the next chal­lenge.

“Hon­estly, United for me is in my book of ex­pe­ri­ences, it’s in my his­tory book.”

Wins over West Ham United and Bournemout­h, as well as a 4-2 vic­tory over Olimpiakos to se­cure a place in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League, has lifted Spurs up to fifth in Premier League. But they go into tonight’s match just two points ahead of United.

Mourinho said: “It is not for me to an­a­lyse United now. I an­a­lyse them as an op­po­nent, how they play.

“How can we beat them? How can they beat us? For me, that is the im­por­tant thing.”

Given the ac­ri­mony of his de­par­ture last De­cem­ber, it’s easy to for­get Mourinho de­liv­ered a League Cup and a Europa League ti­tle dur­ing his twoand-a-half years in charge at United.

The Por­tuguese, 56, said he is ex­cited about the prospect of re­turn­ing to Old Traf­ford. “I feel good, I like to play big matches, I like to play against the best teams and go back to a place where I was happy,” he said.

“I have a great re­la­tion­ship with the Manch­ester United sup­port­ers. I went back as a pun­dit and I was hum­bled by such a beau­ti­ful re­cep­tion.

“To­mor­row I go back as the coach of the team that will try and beat Manch­ester United.

“I un­der­stand that what they want is the ex­act op­po­site of what I want. Of course, dur­ing the match I ex­pect them to for­get me.”

Mourinho’s suc­ces­sor at United, Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer, knows only too well the pres­sures of man­ag­ing Eng­land’s most dec­o­rated club and the de­mands of the fans to play en­ter­tain­ing foot­ball and win tro­phies. Bar an im­pres­sive run of re­sults when he first suc­ceeded Mourinho as care­taker, United strug­gled for con­sis­tency to­wards the tail end of last sea­son and have largely un­der per­formed un­der the Nor­we­gian this cam­paign.

Sol­sk­jaer said he was un­con­cerned about the spate of re­cent sack­ings in Eng­land’s top tier, with Po­chet­tino, Unai Emery and Quique Sanchez Flores part­ing ways with Spurs, Arse­nal and Wat­ford re­spec­tively over the past two weeks.

Premier League draws with pro­moted Sh­effield United and As­ton Villa ei­ther side of the Europa League loss at As­tana have ratch­eted up the pres­sure on the 1999 tre­ble hero.

United are in the midst of their worst start to a top-flight cam­paign in 31 years, hav­ing mus­tered just four wins ahead of the visit of Spurs.

“No, it doesn’t make me more con­cerned,” the United man­ager said. “I’m just fo­cus­ing on my job and that’s do­ing as well as I can and look for­ward to the next game, but also look longterm, plan things with board.

“It’s that time of year. It’s never nice to see your col­leagues lose their jobs – now three in a very short space of time.”

United are ninth in the ta­ble on 18 points af­ter 14 games, but there have been no “knee­jerk” con­ver­sa­tions with ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man Ed Wood­ward or the own­ers.

One player who will miss the Mourinho re­union is Paul Pogba. The French­man and Mourinho clashed to­wards the end of his time but is still side­lined by an an­kle in­jury.

Fel­low mid­field­ers Scott McTom­i­nay and Ne­manja Matic “touch and go”, Sol­sk­jaer said.

I un­der­stand that what they [United fans] want is the ex­act op­po­site of what I want. I ex­pect them to for­get me JOSE MOURINHO Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager

Getty

Jose Mourinho says his time at Old Traf­ford has gone into a ‘book of ex­pe­ri­ences’ and he still en­joys good rap­port with fans

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