Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has called for respect from Liverpool as he prepares for the latest instalment of their long-standing rivalry on Saturday at Anfield.
Mourinho insists he is relishing the prospect of a fixture that has been billed as the sternest examination yet of his high-flying United team’s Premier League credentials.
But the man who shushed Liverpool fans upon lifting his first trophy in English football at the 2005 League Cup final, revelled in an adversarial relationship with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez and derailed the Merseysiders’ league title hopes in 2014 insists he wants the match to take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
“I like to play against the best teams, I like to play against the best clubs and I like to play at the best stadiums, the stadiums with more history,” he told Sky Sports.
“At Anfield I’ve had great moments and I’ve had bad moments. They have had happiness against me, they have had very sad moments against me. If they respect me as much as I respect them, we are going to have another one of those matches.”
Mourinho, who suffered two Champions League semi-final defeats to Benitez’s Liverpool during his first spell at Chelsea, heads to Anfield with United second in the table, behind neighbours Manchester City only on goal difference having amassed 19 points from a possible 21.
The former Real Madrid and Inter Milan manager believes that, despite facing modest opposition so far, his team have already shown they are better than last term, when they finished sixth, and cited the impact of striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Nemanja Matic.
“I think we are a better team. You can say, like some people do, we have not played one of the top five teams but last season we did not beat West Ham at home, Everton at home or Southampton away,” he added.
“I think it would be unfair to say Lukaku and Matic did not make an impact; we have to admit that and give them what they deserve. But also the team give Matic and Lukaku the conditions to arrive the way they have. Does that mean we are going to be as successful as last season, winning two titles? I don’t know. But we are better.”
Liverpool head into the lunchtime showdown in seventh place, seven points behind United and City, and have won just one of their last seven fixtures in all competitions. The Reds are also without forward Sadio Mane for six weeks after he suffered a hamstring injury on international duty with Senegal this week.
They have kept just two clean sheets in their 12 matches this season – one of those coming against a Crystal Palace team yet to score in the league – and face a United side who have scored four goals on six occasions and, in Lukaku, boast a striker who has netted 16 times in 13 appearances for club and country. United are missing injured midfielders Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini.