Chelsea manager Antonio Conte says his players are still scarred by last seasons disappointment and he has not mentioned Jos Mourinho before the clash with Manchester United
Antonio Conte has suggested the most immediate legacy of Jos Mourinhos second spell as Chelsea manager was the mental scarring from which his players are still recovering as they prepare to welcome back the Portuguese to Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho was dismissed last December with his sides title defence in tatters, and the team teetering a point above the relegation zone having lost nine of their 16 league games. A dismayed home support took their frustrations out on the players a few days later as they beat Sunderland comfortably, with the interim manager, Guus Hiddink, looking on from Roman Abramovichs box in the west stand. The team would go on to finish in mid-table but would have to go without European football for the first time in the Russians ownership.
Conte has pointedly not mentioned Mourinho by name in his meetings with his players before Sundays visit of Manchester United but, while urging all to offer his opposite number respect, he conceded the wounds inflicted during that traumatic five-month period remain.
When there are these types of season very bad seasons, because we finished 10th in the table its normal that something remains in the players, said the Italian. In their minds. In their heads. In this situation, the risk is to lose the confidence. For this reason, I continue to repeat: this new season for Chelsea is very important.
Also, its very difficult because you must change what happened last season, and thats not easy. The only way we have to change is to work, to work very hard, together with the players, the club and the fans. It wont be easy to cancel a bad season like last season.
When youve won three championships at a club, of course you remain in the hearts of the fans. But I must be honest: I didnt talk [about Mourinho]. I didnt talk to my players about Jos Mourinho. This topic is important because a coach is coming back who won three titles with Chelsea, and won with many players who are still here. But, for us, what is important is Manchester United and playing against a team, not just Jos Mourinho. For this reason, I didnt speak to them about Jos Mourinho.
They have nothing to prove. Absolutely nothing. I think that, when you have a lot of time with a man and you won a lot with him, you love this man. You love this person for the relationship you were able to create in this time. Then, when something like last season happens, a bad season Look, its normal that the players want to win. But they have great respect for him. Its right, this.
Conte, who said it would be useless to try to keep Diego Costa calmer on the pitch after the strikers fit of pique against Leicester, anticipates a tight, tactical contest on Sunday which could mirror Uniteds goalless draw at Liverpool on Monday. Uniteds ambition was questioned at Anfield and, while the pragmatist in Mourinho may seek to stifle once again, Conte claimed he would never send a side out intent merely on gleaning a point in whatever fashion they could.
Its important to win, but for me also its important to win in the right way, said the Italian, who will also confront one of his former players at Juventus, Paul Pogba. Ive won games in the past with other clubs but I wasnt satisfied with the performance. When you win its important to put in a good performance for your fans, to show also our work. I think to win is important but its important also to play good football, to play with good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion.
For me, thats important. You have to start every game trying to win, and I transfer these thoughts to my players. Always. Whether we are playing at home or away. You must start the game with only one target: to win. Not to play for a draw. I dont like this. Its not football.