LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho insists he still has a good relationship with former club Chelsea despite a recent war of words with his Stamford Bridge successor Antonio Conte.
Mourinho’s side host Chelsea in a crucial top-four Premier League battle with much of the pre-match talk centred around the apparent bad feeling between himself and Conte.
The Portuguese opted not to talk about that spat at his news conference on Friday, describing Conte as a “very good manager”.
Instead he spoke of his relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy, for whom he delivered three Premier League titles in two stints as manager.
“I have a good relation with the board, I don’t forget how nice they were to me in a difficult period with departure of my father,” he said. “They show me in that moment they feel me as a friend that did his best for the club and respects the club.
“So in relation to the board they know the relation with me is always good, with the players, I don’t have many problem, any regret, any stone on my shoes.”
Mourinho’s return visits to Stamford Bridge with United last season, in the league and in the FA Cup, ended in two defeats and some sections of the home crowd heckled him with chants of ‘you’re not special any more.’
Chelsea also beat United this season at home, so Mourinho will be eager to redress the balance on Sunday when victory would lift them six points above fourth-placed Chelsea.
Whatever the result, Mourinho said he will have no problem with Chelsea’s fans.
“No problem at all, and the fans are fans, with many of them in the street I feel that empathy and that relation that normally should be a connection and feeling forever,” he said.
“When I play at Stamford Bridge, some reactions from the fans are just reactions.”
Mourinho was also quick to praise record signing Paul Pogba after reports of a fall-out with the French midfielder after he left him out for this week’s 0-0 draw in Sevilla in the Champions League last-16, first leg.
Pogba did come off the bench after 17 minutes to replace the injured Ander Herrera.
“You saw the game against Sevilla,” Mourinho said. “It is always more difficult to come from the bench than to start.
“A player when he is starting the game has a different kind of preparation for it and it is easier. I think he had a very positive game for us.
“Sometimes players on the bench take five minutes to be ready to play. They don’t have the shinpads or the strapping or the shirt or this or that. He took ten seconds to be ready to come to the pitch.
“He showed his professionalism and that despite being on the bench he was ready to play and to help the team. And he did.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge