Jose Mourinho told fans it will not be the “end of the world” if Manchester United lose to Manchester City and hand them the Premier League crown, but says he wants to delay the title celebrations.
Saturday’s eagerly awaited meeting at City’s Etihad Stadium offers Pep Guardiola the chance to make mathematically certain of the Premier League crown with a victory.
It is a prospect that has left United supporters with a sense of dread as their bitter rivals prepare to lift English football’s greatest prize.
During his press conference on Friday, Mourinho reminded fans of the day, a dozen years ago, when he led Chelsea to a victory over United to win the title and claimed that the potential title decider is “just football”.
“We beat United 3-0 and we won the title at Stamford Bridge in 2005-06. But it was not the end of the world, Manchester United didn’t finish. It was just football.
“The only thing I can say is that we want to win, we don’t want to offer them the game. We want to go there and want to compete and win the match if possible. That’s the only thing I can say.
“It is normal that you want to delay the champions becoming champions. We would like to beat them, we would like Spurs to beat them next week, we would like them to be champions as late as possible.”
Mourinho was in a downbeat mood on the eve of his latest meeting with his old rival Guardiola and refused to discuss a number of topics.
As in keeping with recent weeks, he was quick to emphasise his own historical successes in the Premier League and the improvement United have shown in their league form during the current campaign.
But with City on course to break numerous records in Guardiola’s second season in charge, their status as one of the best teams of the modern era was something Mourinho could not refute.
“I think they are going to beat Chelsea’s total from 2004-05 and that does not make it easy for the teams coming behind them, even for teams with positive seasons and with a positive number of points, and with significant improvement on the previous season,” he said.
“In our case, I think we have eight points more than last season, more goals scored, less goals conceded, but Manchester City made it impossible for the others.”
Mourinho conceded that City’s advantage over his side – which will stretch to 19 points should they win the derby – is fully deserved.
“It is always a fair reflection,” he said.
“Sometimes you know you have one team that was unlucky with injuries, another who was lucky because they had no injuries and no suspensions, another one had a few more points because some referee mistakes gave them a few more points.
“But I don’t go in this direction because it belongs to the season.
“Every team in the course of the season had some injuries, has someone suspended, had referees’ mistakes that helped or punished you.
“But in the end, what matters is what happens in the reality of the points, and City will be champions because they deserve to be champions.”