Jose Mourinho has cast his mind back to two previous meetings with Manchester United as this weekend’s game against the Old Trafford club draws close.
The Chelsea manager has certainly not forgotten that the opening match of his first time in charge at Stamford Bridge was against the same side as he faces on Sunday, and the Blues also took Man United on early in his return this season. Mourinho sees a better Chelsea side now to the one back in August when we played out a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.
‘Now I feel my team is living a good moment with some stability,’ he says.
‘The team is quite confident with the ball, we are dominant and normally we have lots of possession and control of the game, so it’s a different moment. The team had an evolution in a certain direction. At Old Trafford was the first away game of the season, a difficult one, an important one not to lose and we decided to go that way which in the end was not bad for us because a point at Old Trafford is always a good point.’
Casting his mind back to 2004 and the opening day 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, Mourinho says:’I remember the team that I played, the goal, incidents, what I did the day before, what I did after the match.
‘I remember everything. My strongest memory is that the match was on 15th August, the day before was my wife’s birthday.She said this is a fantastic county to be in because for the first time in our lives you are at home and not with the team in the hotel! Only in England can we normally do that.’
Away from the immediate preparations for this latest meeting with Man United, the week has been about reshaping the squad a little, with Nemanja Matic arriving and other players going out on-loan. With Ryan Bertrand one of those, 18-year-old Nathan Ake has been drafted from the Under-21s into the first team squad.
‘Bertrand is leaving on loan because we want him to play games,’ Mourinho notes.
‘We have Ashley Cole and we have Cesar Azpilicueta in that position. Because Bertrand is leaving I’m bringing Ake now to the squad because he is a player that can play there, and even in an emergency David Luiz or Branislav Ivanovic can play left-back. So even though only Ashley Cole is a specialist left-back we don’t have problems.
‘If you have players in the same position you have to try to not just be fair but to give them chances to chase their ambitions. Ashley Cole wants a new contract and he wants the World Cup. Ryan Bertrand needs to play and he deserves to play, so we decided to let him go on loan more for him than for us. Hopefully he plays well. He is a Chelsea player, English, and hopefully he will be back next season.
‘We have a group of people to monitor the evolution of our players on loan, we watch them every weekend, the information comes to me online immediately so I can know immediately how they are doing, what happened in the game. We have contacts with their coaches and their clubs and we are working on this. It’s not something you can just click and make it happen. It needs time and I think the club is doing well.’
Such information and monitoring allows Mourinho to give an update on the progress of Eden Hazard’s young brother Thorgan who is on-loan for a second season in his native Belgium.
‘The kid’s evolution is brilliant. He is a very young kid and was a very small investment by the club, and it is working very well. His loan club Zulte Waregem did amazingly well in the last season. If now he wants a move it’s something we have to analyse, but we are happy with him and we are happy with the way Zulte have helped him to develop.’