Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho takes aim at Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp
Jose Mourinho was already on his feet and heading for the exit by the time he responded to the last question of the day.
So do Jurgen Klopp’s touchline theatrics bother him? Or even remind him of himself as a younger man?
‘I’m on the touchline to try to coach,’ replied the Manchester United manager, stopping briefly to answer the question. ‘I’m not on the touchline to …’ As his words trailed off, Mourinho’s hands took over, flapping in the air.
Jurgen Klopp irked Jose Mourinho with his animated behaviour at Stamford Bridge last season
But there was certainly nothing personal about Klopp’s animation, which is commonplace
The message was clear. No, he is definitely not a fan of Klopp’s histrionics. But, then again, the Liverpool manager knows that already.
Monday night’s showdown at Anfield is actually their second meeting in the Premier League, Klopp’s first league win in England having come at Mourinho’s expense as the Special One headed for the sack at Chelsea a year ago.
October 31, 2015. Liverpool fell behind at Stamford Bridge but recovered to win 3-1. Mourinho and his staff were less than impressed by Klopp’s touchline antics that day, and in particular by what they felt was his unreasonable badgering of fourth official Lee Mason.
Mourinho was unhappy with Klopp’s badgering of fourth official Lee Mason
Liverpool beat Chelsea 3-1 on October 31 2015, representing Klopp’s first win as Reds manager
Mourinho appeared to question what would have happened if he had behaved in the same way, even though that might seem rich coming from someone with more than a little experience of the dark arts.
His assistant Jose Morais took matters into his own hands and confronted Klopp before Mason stepped in. ‘We don’t press referees, we behave on the touchline, so that is a point we are very comfortable with,’ said Mourinho.
It might explain why his response was a little tepid when asked what he thought of the progress of a coach whose Borussia Dortmund team also knocked his Real Madrid out of the Champions League semi-final in 2013. ‘I have not much to say,’ came the reply.
At times, it has not been an easy return to management for Mourinho since taking over at Old Trafford in the summer. All the talk in English football has been of the new high-pressing philosophy of rivals such as Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.
The Special One is himself no stranger to animated touchline antics
Mourinho appeared keen to separate himself from his German counterpart
The Portuguese coach could be forgiven for feeling a little out of fashion. Mourinho, though, is sticking to the principles that have won him three Premier Leagues titles and two European Cups.
He said: ‘When they have the ball you have to try to stop them scoring, and the best way to do that is to defend with 11 men.
‘When you have the ball you want to score, you want to be dominant, you want the ball and this is what we are doing. We are playing the way we are playing, and we have to improve in many things. But we have a certain style of play and we are not going to change that.’
Still, Mourinho sees room for improvement if he is to continue Louis van Gaal’s impressive record for United against Liverpool.
Manchester United won last season’s encounter at Anfield thanks to Wayne Rooney’s strike
Rooney’s goal was Manchester United’s only shot on target whilst Liverpool had 14
Van Gaal orchestrated four straight league wins over Liverpool, including a rather fortunate 1-0 victory at Anfield in January when Wayne Rooney capitalised on a rare chance 12 minutes from time.
‘Liverpool had 14 shots on target and United had one, and the result was 0-1,’ Mourinho recalled. ‘I don’t think that is going to happen again.’
After one win in his last four Premier League games, Mourinho knows the importance of this fixture transcends traditional rivalry. After all, United have an opportunity to close the gap on leaders Manchester City to three points.
Beyond that, he would dearly like a victory over Klopp. For someone who says he doesn’t do theatrics, it promises to be a fascinating show.