Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is unfazed by the arrival of Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, but has described his former boss as a “great coach” who he has “deep respect” for. Mourinho is a pupil of van Gaal, having worked with the Dutchman for three years at Barcelona. The Chelsea boss summarises their working relationship rather succinctly:
“We got on. Maybe we understood each other.”
Many fans will have been looking forward to the battle between the ‘Special One’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Number One’, but Mourinho believes the fight for ascendancy will be conducted with civility. The pair have only met competitively as coaches on one occasion, when Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat van Gaal’s Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final, and Mourinho told the Mail on Sunday:
“We were very professional and kept our friendship on the biggest possible stage. When it’s Chelsea against Manchester United we will do the same thing.”
There is clearly great respect between the two, and the Chelsea boss continued to speak highly of van Gaal:
“I watched him at his press conference and he was pure van Gaal – honest and open, the way he always is.
“He is a very, very good coach, he’ll be great for Manchester United. We are both great coaches. It’s what we were born to do.
“Louis was the best coach in the World Cup and he is a good friend – really, a friend for life. I have deep respect for this man.
“He is in the best period of his career. With coaching, if you deal with winning and losing in the right way, you improve. He analyses every experience. He has got better and better.”
With van Gaal and Mourinho set to go head-to-head this season, there is every chance the rivalry between the two great managers will deepen and escalate as the Premier League reaches its climax. United will be looking to return to the summit of English football and banish the ghosts of the disastrous seventh place finish last season. Mourinho’s comments, as respectful as they are, are emblematic of the calm before the storm:
“I’m not worried about him being here. I look forward to playing against United. Nothing worries me.”
There is not long left to wait now until the two managerial behemoth’s begin their campaigns. Manchester United kickstart the Premier League season against Swansea City on the 16th August, with Chelsea facing newly promoted Burnley just two days later. The first league clash between Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho is on the 26th October at Old Trafford. All eyes will be on the dugouts for what will be an intriguing battle between master and apprentice.