Four games have been contested between Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, with the fiery Italian winning three and the loquacious Portuguese winning just one. It’s no secret that the passion of both managers is contagious which makes them serial winners, yet there’s no love lost between them.
With a clash between Chelsea and Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, let’s look at the timeline of their managerial battles ahead of Sunday’s showdown:
MOURINHO’S HUMILIATION AT THE BRIDGE:
In October 2016, Mourinho endured a torrid return to Stamford Bridge, with Conte’s Chelsea comprehensively winning 4-0 thanks to goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante. The Portuguese’s frustrations were evident at the final whistle as he remonstrated with Conte about his behaviour on the touchline, feeling the Italian had “humiliated” him and his team with his hysterical celebrations by urging the Chelsea fans to raise their voices in support of the team.
“You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0, you can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us,” the Manchester United manager bemoaned. Both this incident was the first in many battles to come.
MOURINHO’S DEFENSIVE HARDLINER:
Mourinho backed Chelsea to win the title back in February, but aimed a sly dig at Conte in doing so. The United boss labelled the Blues’ style of play as ‘defensive’, despite sitting top of the league.
“Chelsea are a very good defensive team,” he said.
“They defend very well and with lots of players and I think in this situation a very defensive team wins the title with counter-attack goals and set-pieces goals, so I don’t think they will let it slip but football is football.”
THE FA CUP DEBACLE:
The clubs were drawn to face each other in the FA Cup quarter-finals last season in a game that boiled over due to a perceived controversial decision by Michael Olivier to send off Ander Herrera. After N’Golo Kante’s strike had settled the contest, Mourinho said:
“I don’t speak about the red card. Everybody can analyse from different perspectives but we all watch the match until the red card and after the red card. So we can compare the decisions of the two yellow cards, in this case with others which were not given.”
When Conte was asked about Mourinho’s comments, he preferred to focus on Eden Hazard being persistently fouled, saying: “He started the game, but he couldn’t play football. Everyone could see this so can judge the situation.”
Clearly tempers were flaring for a major combo between the two managers
Conte took a veiled shot at Mourinho in the summer after guiding his side to the Premier League title. Speaking in July, Conte delivered a warning to his players, saying: “Two years ago Chelsea finished 10th. That cannot happen again. We know the difficulty and for sure we want to avoid the Mourinho season with Chelsea. The coaches of the previous two champions [Chelsea and Leicester] both lost their jobs [the next season] and we are working very well to find the best solutions and use them.”
The United boss was reluctant to react albeit directly, but did give a sarcastic barb at the Italian:
“I don’t know,” he said. “I could answer in many different ways but I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte.”
In October, after United had beaten Benfica in the Champions League, Mourinho decided to reignite his feud with Conte, telling the press:
“I never speak about injuries. Other managers, they cry, they cry, they cry when a player is injured.
“I don’t cry; I think the way to do it is ignore the players who are injured and focus on the players that are available. If I want to moan and cry like the others, I can cry for the next five minutes. But I don’t.”
Conte aimed a shot at the Portuguese:
“I think he has to think about his team and start looking at himself, not others. I think that, a lot of times, Mourinho [likes to concentrate on] what is happening at Chelsea. A lot of times, also last season. [He has] to think about his team.”
THE BOILING POINT – CONTEMPT FEELING:
Perhaps with Conte’s celebrations in October 2016 still arching the Portuguese mind and heart, the Red Devils boss fired another shot:
“Because I don’t behave as a clown on the touchline, it means that I lost my passion,” he said.
“I prefer to behave the way I am doing it, much more mature, better for my team and myself, I don’t think you have to behave like a crazy guy on the touchline to have that passion.”
Conte fired back:
“I think he has to see himself in the past – maybe he was speaking about himself in the past. Maybe, sometimes, I think that someone forgets what’s said in the past, which is his behaviour,” he said.
“Sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, but demenza senile… when you forget what you do in the past.”
Though a club spokesperson later confirmed that he had meant to say amnesia, it was too late to retract those words because the damage was already done.
Mourinho continued his feud by reeling the Italian saying:
“What never happened to me – and will never happen – is to be suspended for match-fixing. That never happened to me and will never happen.”
Speaking after Chelsea’s 0-0 FA Cup draw with Norwich last month, Conte responded to Mourinho’s comments the previous day, repeatedly referring to his adversary as a ‘little man’:
“I think when there are these types of comments, comments where you try to offend the person and don’t know the truth, then you are a little man,” he said.
“In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he’s a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future. I consider him a little man and I consider him a man with a very low profile.”
Conte didn’t stop there either, calling Mourinho a ‘fake’ as well as stoking the fire ahead of Chelsea’s upcoming Premier League clash against Manchester United in February.
“I remember with Ranieri when he [Mourinho] offended him for his English. And then when Ranieri was sacked he put on a shirt for Ranieri. You are fake, you are fake,” he said.
He added: “When is the game against United? We can meet in a room. To try and explain about these comments. I don’t know if he is ready to meet me in a room, just me and him.”
Conte has the perfect chance to inflict more pain on his managerial rival as both teams gear up for a mouthwatering Champions League six-pointer. A Chelsea win would see us level on points with Manchester United and equally drag them into the fierce battle for Champions League qualification for next season. Now is the perfect time for Conte to do his talking on the pitch and indeed show the Portuguese to be a little man that he claimed he is.
Let’s anticipate… Cheers!