Given the shared history between Chelsea and Manchester United, especially when it comes to José Mourinho and Nemanja Matić, it is entirely unsurprising that many of the recent questions faced by managers and players at both clubs involve attempts at wrangling juicy, headline-able quotes out of them. Nothing sells better than conflict and rivalry, right? Conflict between coaches and coaches, conflict between coaches and players, even conflict between coaches and fans. So far, no one’s playing along, much to the media’s chagrin, no doubt.
Matić has already shot a few attempts down, saying that he’s sure the Chelsea fans respect his accomplishments, but if we don’t, he doesn’t care. Mourinho did the same yesterday as well.
“When I go to Stamford Bridge and sit in that dugout, on the right side of the tunnel, I’m the manager of their opponents, so I accept every possible reaction with the utmost respect.”
-José Mourinho; source: Express
While Mourinho was talking about the fans specifically here, he’s spent most of his other pre-match comments talking about not talking about injuries (especially Pogba’s injury) and about how he likes to take on challenges and build/buy squads and whatnot. Those can read into as attempts at mind games, which the media will of course gladly do for Mourinho most of the time, but he seems to be largely concentrating on his own team, which is what everyone should be doing anyway.
Along similar lines, Conte talked about coaches having respect for each other when Sky’s Kaveh Solkehol tried to get a rise out of him regarding Mourinho. The reporter’s questioning got so annoying in fact that Chelsea press officer Steve Atkins had to chime in to shut him down, as you can see in the clip from the pre-match press conference below.
It is of course this fake drama that drives the narratives and sells the clicks, but at the end of the day, this is mostly just a job for the people involved. A job they must do with great passion and great professionalism and not all that much personal feelings.
“I think in this time, you see only opponents. An opponent. I think this is the right way. It will be the same for Matic in the other side. I think he doesn't care, he doesn't care. The most important is to play for your place, to play for your club, to play for your fans. This is the most important thing now."
-Antonio Conte; source: Football.London
“I think it’s very difficult to speak about ‘friendship’ with other coaches because then they become an opponent. You can have respect, for the job and the work, but to speak about friendship is difficult.”
“It’s not important, the relationship between the coaches. You have to respect the job of the other coach and then stop. He’s an opponent, I stop, finish. I have respect for his job. He must have respect for my job.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Telegraph