WATFORD – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has told Chelsea fans he will never hate them no matter how much abuse he receives during Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Mourinho remains the most successful boss in Chelsea’s history after winning three Premier League titles, as well as the three League Cups and one FA Cup, during his two spells with the west London club.
But some Chelsea supporters no longer show the same gratitude and adulation to Mourinho as they did when he won the team’s first English title for 50 years in 2005.
Mourinho angered Blues fans by joining their rivals United and the tension boiled over when Chelsea won a fiery FA Cup quarter-final between the sides at Stamford Bridge last season.
Mourinho, twice sacked by Chelsea, was branded a “Judas” by supporters who sang “You’re not special any more”, to which the Portuguese coach responded by saying “Judas is still number one” in a reminder to his tormentors of how successful he had been with their club.
Ahead of this weekend’s clash between his current and former teams at Wembley, Mourinho made it clear he wouldn’t be drawn into more verbal sparring because he still respects the fans who stuck by him when he was on the verge of being axed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
“The only thing I say in relation to Chelsea supporters is since my first day in 2004 until my last day when I was sacked a couple of years ago, they were with me unconditionally,” Mourinho said.
“They were with me every day, even on the two days I was sacked. That I will never forget.
“They did what I think great supporters do, they support their manager unconditionally until the last day.
“I remember when we played Dynamo Kiev, a Champions League match when people were already talking about me being sacked.
“I remember the whole stadium standing and singing for me. That was in a difficult moment when the results were not good.
“If they hate me, if they dislike me, if they don’t respect me, that is something I can’t control.
“But you don’t have any (negative) quotes from me about Chelsea supporters, not one word.”
After feuding with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte for much of this season, Mourinho also revealed this week that he has buried the hatchet with the Italian.
But, with Conte reportedly set to leave Chelsea at the end of the season after falling out with the club’s hierarchy, Mourinho is intent of giving his successor a painful end to the season by leading United to a record-equalling 13th FA Cup.
Mourinho doesn’t believe the speculation surrounding Conte will prove a distraction for Chelsea, but he admitted to being intrigued to see if reports linking former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique to the Blues prove correct.
“Honestly, I still don’t know what Antonio’s situation is because I didn’t read or listen to him saying he’s leaving,” Mourinho said.
“I have no information that it’s Antonio’s last match.
“Of course sometimes I listen to what is written or people saying Antonio is leaving, Luis Enrique is coming, the other is coming.
“You ask if I am interested. I am curious. But in relation to the match, if it is his last, it won’t change his approach or his team’s approach.”
Mourinho confirmed that David de Gea will start in goal for United because his understudy Sergio Romero isn’t sharp enough after an injury layoff.
Romero had played in four of United’s five FA Cup matches this season, and was selected ahead of De Gea for the Europa League final win over Ajax last season.
If Mourinho leaves Wembley with the trophy, it will be his 13th cup final success in 15 attempts.
“The only thing I can say is I like to play the matches. That is how you should approach finals,” he said.
“You shouldn’t go less than very happy. That is the one thing present in all my finals over all these years.”