Jose Mourinho says his ‘contempt’ means feud with Antonio Conte is over
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho claims he now regards his bitter feud with Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte with “contempt”.
The two Premier League bosses have traded barbs since the new year after Mourinho’s comment he did not feel the need to behave like “a clown” during games touched a nerve with Conte.
That sparked an extraordinary war of words between the pair, where Conte accused Mourinho of having “demenza senile”, which directly translates as senile dementia, prompting the United boss to hit back by appearing to allude to a four-month suspension Conte served in relation to match-fixing.
Conte, who was later cleared of any wrongdoing on that front, responded by accusing Mourinho of being “fake” and “a little man”.
On Friday, Mourinho conducted his first press conference since one of his Chelsea successor’s latest remarks.
“I think when a person insults another, you can expect a response or you can expect contempt, silence,” Mourinho said.
“The first time he insulted me I had a response, a response that I know that touched the point where he really feels hurt.
“Then he insulted me for a second time, but now I change, and now (there is) contempt and for me, contempt means end of the story.”
The duo’s row has added extra spice to Chelsea’s trip to Old Trafford later this season, which is scheduled to be on Sunday, February 25 unless the Blues reach the final of the Carabao Cup.
By that point Mourinho will hope he can once again call upon Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The 36-year-old Swede returned from a career-threatening knee injury in November, just seven months after suffering the problem, but he has not featured since Boxing Day having broken down again.
“Zlatan is injured or is not totally happy with his condition,” Mourinho said.
“He fought like a tiger – like he likes to say – to be back, which he did, he was starting having minutes here and there and had a start and had 60 minutes of one game, start another one and had 45 and he was not happy with his feelings.
“He consulted other doctors, other opinions and we all make the decision to stop, (get) treatment and when (he’s) feeling really good come back to the work and the date for him to be back to training with the team was around end of January, beginning of February, so let’s hope his feelings are better and we have him with us as soon as possible.”
Central defender Eric Bailly is another on the sidelines and his return to fitness from an ankle issue holds the key to whether Mourinho will allow 20-year-old Axel Tuanzebe to leave on loan in this transfer window.
“Tuanzebe’s a very good player that is not having lots of possibilities to play here,” the United boss added.
“But he’s our player and will be our player – no chance we give up on such a talented boy. But it’s something that we are thinking about a loan until the end of the season.
“We are a bit afraid of injuries, of needing him. We have Eric Bailly injured, we are not free of other injuries, so we are delaying the decision, and we are going to delay until the end of the transfer window.”