Friday 9 December 2016

Mourinho refuses to talk himself into derby brawl

James Ducker

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

Manchester United's Jose Mourinho (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Manchester United's Jose Mourinho (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Jose Mourinho insisted that he and Pep Guardiola were not boxers gearing up for another brawl as the bitter rivals refused to trade blows on the eve of today's eagerly awaited Manchester derby.

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But Guardiola could offer no guarantees that the fragile peace with Mourinho would last after ruing how the football had invariably been overshadowed by their toxic off-field rivalry as coaches of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Mourinho and Guardiola will lock horns at Old Trafford this lunchtime for the first time since their tumultuous two-year feud in Spain but, for the moment at least, the pair appear to have little appetite to reopen old wounds after a battle that left both scarred.

Mourinho told his inquisitors to tune into Kell Brook's world middleweight fight against Kazakhstan's Gennady Golovkin at the O2 Arena tonight if they were spoiling for a fight and that he and Guardiola had exchanged pleasantries at a recent league managers' meeting.

Asked if his relationship with Guardiola had deteriorated, the United manager - who has given consideration to starting youngsters Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah against City - said: "No. You want stories but I don't have them. You want a fight but the fight is Brook against the Russian guy. Nowhere. It's not me against him - it's Man United against Man City."

Yet Guardiola, who said he would start Claudio Bravo in goal over Willy Caballero despite the new signing from Barcelona having taken part in just two training sessions, could not say with any confidence that the niceties would last.

"From my point of view, from my side, there's no doubt about that," Guardiola said when asked if the off-field controversy overshadowed the football in Spain during his rivalry with Mourinho, who infamously poked a finger in the eye of the Catalan's former assistant, Tito Vilanova, during one match.

"Of course (I hope it won't happen again) but I don't know what is going to happen. I will accept (a drink) if he (Mourinho) invites me."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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