Jose Mourinho said yesterday that Manchester United have the best strike-force in the Premiership. "When I look to their firepower - [Wayne] Rooney, [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, Alan Smith, Louis Saha, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Ryan] Giggs, it is amazing," the Chelsea manager said. "Much more than we have. More than what Arsenal have."
However Mourinho added that unless United beat the champions next weekend then their title hopes are over. "At the moment the difference is nine points," he said. "If they lose - 12 points. Then it's 'goodbye Arsenal'. If they win, six points and they are there." He added: "They have a lot of power to join us in the fight for top position."
Mourinho was responding to the claim made by Arsenal's Arsène Wenger that United's "golden years" are over. "I think they can be [a force] again," Mourinho said. As well as the strikers at Sir Alex Ferguson's disposal, he identified the return of Rio Ferdinand. "Rio is back," he said.
Chelsea have personnel problems of their own ahead of today's Premiership match against Manchester City. With Didier Drogba injured, Mourinho admitted that he did not have "many options" because his squad is small. That, of course, was his decision and matters have not been helped by an injury to Mateja Kezman - who may play today alongside Eidur Gudjohnsen - and the row with Adrian Mutu.
The Romania Football Federation has complained to Fifa about Chelsea's treatment of Mutu. It insisted that the striker played in last weekend's match against the Czech Republic - and Mutu declared himself fit - even though Chelsea said he was injured and was running the risk of surgery on his damaged knee. Mutu has also been outspoken in his criticism of Mourinho and has been fined £120,000, two weeks wages, by the club.
The manager said: "He has an internal situation with me and the club because of his comments. But the medical department told me last Tuesday that he is not available to train. Nobody in Chelsea Football Club said he could not go to the national team. We never say to a player that he can't go. Because we can't."
He contrasted the apparently petulant behaviour of Mutu - and his federation - with that of Drogba, Kezman and Wayne Bridge. Asked if the Romanian would play for Chelsea again, Mourinho said: "I don't see why not. I cannot say yes. But at this moment he cannot train."
Chelsea are growing increasingly sensitive to claims of unrest among players who have featured little this season. Mourinho said he would make "one or two" changes today after the international fixtures. "When you speak about players who are not happy, I'm glad they are not happy," he said. "When I have a player not playing and happy it doesn't suit our philosophy. I want ambition. Even if you play with your friends, five-a-side, and there are 11 players and you are the one who stays out and has to wait, you are not happy."
Mourinho then listed the excluded. Scott Parker, he said, "is one of the best pros I have ever known in my career." He was now "selected". His reward? "He will be on the bench," Mourinho said. There had also been a meeting with Robert Huth - another alleged malcontent - and German national coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "Everything was very clear between us," Mourinho said. Carlo Cudicini? "I don't know a top club without two top goalkeepers," he said. There was "no chance" of him leaving. Glen Johnson? "Paulo [Ferreira] is playing very well but he cannot play every minute so, soon, he needs a rest and Glen will have his chance," was the reply.
As for Mourinho himself, he wants to put down some roots and stay at Chelsea - not least for his two young children. "I feel with the age of my kids I cannot just move like I was moving over the past years," he said. "So I hope I can win things here and stay for many years. Because it's important."Reuse content