Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Jose Mourinho says time at Manchester United 'a closed chapter' with focus now on beating them with Tottenham

Portuguese returns to Old Trafford for the first time as a manager since being sacked last year

Jose Mourinho says his time at Manchester United is "a closed chapter" and that his only priority now is securing victories for Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho makes his first return to Old Trafford as an opposition manager since being sacked by the club 12 months ago.

Spurs travel with wind in their sails and seeking a fourth straight win under Mourinho, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino as manager following the Argentine's dismissal last month.

"This is a closed chapter for me," Mourinho said. "I left the club, I took my time to process everything that happened, I took my time to prepare myself for the next challenge.

"Honestly, United for me is in my book of experiences, it's in my history book."

Wins over West Ham United and Bournemouth, as well as a 4-2 victory over Olimpiakos to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, has lifted Spurs up to fifth in Premier League. But they go into Wednesday's match just two points ahead of United.

Mourinho said: "It is not for me to analyse United now. I analyse them as an opponent, how they play. How can we beat them? How can they beat us? For me, that is the important thing."

Given the acrimony of his departure last December, it's easy to forget Mourinho delivered a League Cup and a Europa League title during his two-and-a-half years in charge at United. The Portuguese, 56, said he is excited about the prospect of returning to Old Trafford.

"I feel good, I like to play big matches, I like to play against the best teams and go back to a place where I was happy," he said.

"I have a great relationship with the Manchester United supporters. I went back as a pundit and I was humbled by such a beautiful reception.

"Tomorrow I go back as the coach of the team that will try and beat Manchester United.

"I understand that what they want is the exact opposite of what I want. Of course during the match I expect them to forget me."

Mourinho's successor at United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, knows only too well the pressures of managing England's most decorated club and the demands of the fans to play entertaining football and win trophies. Bar an impressive run of results when he first succeeded Mourinho as caretaker, United struggled for consistency towards the tail end of last season and have largely under performed under the Norwegian this campaign.

Solskjaer said he was unconcerned about the spate of recent sackings in England's top tier, with Pochettino, Unai Emery and Quique Sanchez Flores parting ways with Spurs, Arsenal and Watford respectively over the past two weeks.

Premier League draws with promoted Sheffield United and Aston Villa either side of the Europa League loss at Astana have ratcheted up the pressure on the 1999 treble hero.

United are in the midst of their worst start to a top-flight campaign in 31 years, having mustered just four Premier League wins ahead of the visit of Spurs.

"No, it doesn't make me more concerned," the United manager said. "I'm just focusing on my job and that's doing as well as I can and look forward to the next game, but also look long-term, plan things with board.

"It's that time of year. It's never nice to see your colleagues lose their jobs – now three in a very short space of time."

United are ninth in the table on 18 points after 14 games, but there have been no "knee-jerk" conversations with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward or the owners.

One player who will miss the Mourinho reunion is Paul Pogba. The French World Cup winner clashed with Mourinho towards the end of his time at United but is still sidelined by an ankle injury.

Fellow midfielders Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic "touch and go", Solskjaer said.

Updated: December 3, 2019 04:49 PM

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