Jose Mourinho locks horns with old adversary Claudio Ranieri as FA Cup winners Manchester United tackle fairytale Premier League champions Leicester City in Sunday’s Community Shield at Wembley.
Mourinho, who has succeeded Louis van Gaal at United, twice pipped Ranieri to the Serie A title during their time in Italy, where he goaded the Italian about his age, lack of success and poor command of English.
But Ranieri took revenge last season, overseeing a 2-1 win over Mourinho’s Chelsea in December that proved to be the Portuguese’s last game in the job and finishing the campaign with the league trophy in his hands.
Asked about his rival on Friday, Ranieri said: “We are used to living with the pressure and without pressure we are not the same. Jose always tries to win and his career speaks for itself.”
Mourinho, 53, succeeded Ranieri, 64, as Chelsea manager in 2004 and quickly built on the foundations laid by his predecessor, steering the west London club to back-to-back Premier League titles.
Their paths did not cross directly until 2008, when Mourinho joined Inter Milan and beat Ranieri’s Juventus to the league title.
Reacting to a claim from Ranieri that Mourinho needs to win things to feel sure of himself, the Inter coach said his rival had “the mentality of someone who doesn’t need to win” and was “too old to change”.
Ranieri joined Roma, who pushed Inter all the way in a taut 2009-10 title race, only for Mourinho’s men to prevail by two points and beat them in the Coppa Italia final en route to a glorious Treble.
Publicly, Mourinho’s attitude towards Ranieri has since softened.
He described Leicester’s 5,000-1 title win as “magic” and the pair were photographed embracing prior to a Soccer Aid charity match in June.
But privately Mourinho will be itching to get under Ranieri’s skin, particularly having beaten him only twice in their six head-to-head encounters to date.
While Leicester continue to bask in the afterglow of an achievement that electrified world football, things are no longer quite as they were when captain Wes Morgan lifted the Premier League trophy on May 7.
– Enter Ibrahimovic –
N’Golo Kante, the redoubtable midfield driving force behind their title success, has joined Chelsea in a £30 million ($39.5 million, 35.4 million euros) move.
Talisman Jamie Vardy, last season’s 24-goal top scorer, has committed himself to the club with a new contract, but Riyad Mahrez has been linked with a move away amid reported interest from Arsenal.
Six new signings are bedding in, led by Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa, a club-record £16 million capture from CSKA Moscow, who struck an impressive brace in a 4-2 defeat by Barcelona on Wednesday.
That loss in Stockholm followed a heavy 4-0 reverse at Paris Saint-Germain’s hands and having previously drawn 1-1 with Celtic, Ranieri’s side have gone three games without a win.
United, though, have been scarcely more impressive in pre-season.
They beat Galatasaray and Wigan Athletic, but crashed to a 4-1 defeat against Borussia Dortmund and saw a scheduled meeting with Manchester City fall victim to the Beijing rain.
“We need minutes for the players. Now we have Leicester and it is not a training session. It is a game,” Mourinho said.
“We have six changes, not three, so that gives me the chance to give minutes to some people, players who I know cannot have the condition to play 90 (minutes). We will try to do a little bit of everything.”
With Van Gaal having departed after two years of turgid football and underwhelming results, United’s fans will hope the Wembley showpiece provides signs of a revival under Mourinho.
New signings Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the swaggering Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all in line to feature.
Left-back Luke Shaw, meanwhile, is making up for lost time after nine months out due to a double leg break. – Agence France-Presse