'I cannot control fans hating me' - Jose Mourinho ready to beat the boos
Jose Mourinho is prepared for a hostile reception from Chelsea fans at Wembley this evening but insists he will have no problem with them booing him.
As the Manchester United manager warned his players not to expect any let-up from Chelsea in what is likely to be Antonio Conte's final game in charge, the Portuguese said his opinion of his former side's supporters would never change no matter how much they jeer him.
Mourinho was barracked by a section of Chelsea's support during United's FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Stamford Bridge last season with chants of "Judas", "You're not special any more" and "It's all your fault", the last a reference to the fact the club were not competing in Europe that year.
Mourinho reacted by holding up three fingers to signal the trio of Premier League titles he won over two spells with Chelsea and then later declared that until somebody won four championships with the club "Judas" would remain "No 1" at Stamford Bridge.
But he said he would never bear any ill-feeling towards fans whom he claimed were "phenomenal" with him through good times and bad at Chelsea, including his departures in 2008 and 2015.
phenomenal "In relation to the Chelsea supporters, this I don't forget: they were phenomenal," Mourinho told reporters yesterday. "When I become Manchester United manager, you know better than me of course if the supporters hate me or dislike me or disrespect me.
"That is something I cannot control. But you don't have any thoughts from me with negative words about Chelsea supporters. Not one word. Not one word.
"The only thing I say in relation to Chelsea supporters is that since my first day in 2004 until my last day when I was sacked a couple of years ago, they were with me unconditionally.
"They supported me every day. They supported me every match. They supported me even on the days I was sacked - twice, one in 2008 and another one a couple of years ago. That I will never forget because they did what I think great supporters do, which is to support their manager unconditionally until the last day.
"And I don't forget that, for example, when we played I think it was Dynamo Kiev at home [in November 2015] when people were already talking about the possibility of me being sacked, I don't forget the whole stadium standing and singing in support for me and that was a difficult moment because the results were not good."
Conte now finds himself on the brink at Stamford Bridge, 12 months after delivering the club the title, but Mourinho is adamant that the Italian's position will make no difference to the challenge Chelsea pose his team at Wembley.
"If it is his [Conte's] last match or if it isn't his last match, I don't think it will change at all his approach to the game and his desire to make it through and his desire to win," Mourinho said.
"I still don't know what Antonio's situation is. I have no information from Antonio or Chelsea in some official statement that Antonio is leaving and, for me, that is the most important thing.
"Of course sometimes I read... what you write and what you say is Antonio is leaving, it is Antonio's last match, Luis Enrique is coming, the other one is coming, but until it's official that Antonio leaves I don't know. You ask me if I am interested in it - I'm just curious about it."
Mourinho has won 12 of 14 finals as a manager and is determined to embellish that record today. "The only thing I can say is that I like to play these matches and that is the way you have to approach finals - you shouldn't go to finals less than very, very happy," he said.
"If you give me the choice of finishing the match against Watford and then going on holiday, or be working one more week to play a beautiful final, of course I would rather play a beautiful final.
"I feel very sorry that I don't have one more week to work until the Champions League final." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
FA Cup Final, Live TV3, BBC1 and BT Sport 2