Jose Mourinho yesterday poured scorn on Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chelsea when he claimed that the team that lost 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday were unrecognisable from the side that he built during his time there. "I didn't see Chelsea," the Internazionale coach said. "I saw people from Chelsea before the match, at half-time and after the match. But I didn't see Chelsea on the pitch. I only saw Manchester United."
The Internazionale manager could not resist the put-down when he returned to Italy ahead of his Coppa Italia match against Genoa this week. He was at Old Trafford to watch United before his side's Champions League game against them on 24 February. Scolari will have his chance to respond today when he speaks ahead of the FA Cup replay against Southend tomorrow, a game that has even greater significance after Sunday's result.
The Internazionale manager tried to play down his take on Chelsea's performance but those who saw his press conference yesterday said he was perfectly aware of the interpretation likely to be put on his words that he did not "see" Chelsea on Sunday. Mourinho added: "United won and deservedly so. It was an exceptional result but it wasn't an exceptional match. It was low key."
Mourinho also described the current state of animosity between Rafael Benitez and Ferguson as "war". He clashed with the United manager himself during the three years and three months he spent in England, especially in April 2007 when he described Cristiano Ronaldo as having "no education" and "not showing maturity and respect". That drew a predictably robust response from Ferguson but nothing compared to the severity of the spat between the United manager and Benitez.
Mourinho said: "I've had words with him [Ferguson] about different issues in the past but in the end it was OK. The best thing for those looking on from outside is to just shut up and let them get on with it. I didn't bring the wine this time, it was his [Ferguson's]. We had a chat for half an hour. I told him how we are going to play against them [in the Champions League] and he told me what United's line-up would be." The latter was intended as a joke.
Mourinho's relationship with Scolari has been frosty since the times when the Brazilian was Portugal manager and Mourinho was in charge of Porto in the Portuguese league. The two clashed first over Mourinho's accusation that Scolari refused to select Porto players for the national team. It is not clear whether their paths crossed in Ferguson's office after the match.
It is understood that Scolari did not take his Chelsea players to task in the Old Trafford dressing room in the aftermath of their crushing defeat to United on Sunday. Instead the Brazilian opted for a low-key post-match briefing and did not single out any individuals for blame despite the side having endured Chelsea's heaviest defeat in almost three years. The full squad were in for training yesterday.
There were more reports from Italy yesterday that the club are considering Roberto Mancini (right) as a potential new manager in the summer, although Chelsea have always claimed that these have been driven by Mancini rather than them. The Independent revealed on Saturday that Mancini had been spotted on Thursday in talks over dinner with representatives understood to be from Manchester City in Gualdo Tadino, the Umbrian town near his home.
Scolari has one more year left on his deal and the option for the club to extend it for one further year. There is no suggestion the Brazilian, who is one point ahead of United, having played two games more, is in danger of being sacked. But the owner, Roman Abramovich, may wish to review his decision that there will be no major purchases by Chelsea this month.
One of Scolari's most controversial decisions on Sunday was leaving out Nicolas Anelka in favour of the utterly ineffective Didier Drogba. Surprisingly, the French striker claimed yesterday his club were still in with a chance of winning three trophies this season. Anelka, who has 14 league goals this season, said that Chelsea could still win the league. "The fans have been frustrated by our recent results," Anelka said. "As far as the players are concerned, we have not been happy with some of our games. The positive point is that we are still on course for the treble. We understand it's going to be massively tough, but everything is possible."
Ricardo Carvalho said: "We have to mark our men and this time we didn't mark our men, and goal after goal it is getting worse for us. Our mistake was the corner and we conceded a goal in the last minute of the first half. After that it was difficult to react, we tried but the second goal killed us."
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