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17th of November 2018

Sport



Jose Mourinho has ammunition to unnerve Pep Guardiola and Man City

"Questions about the game, please."

It is rare a press conference goes by where a United media official does not interject and utter those five words to try and get things back on track.

It is a source of frustration for Jose Mourinho that tricky questions quickly come his way during his weekly sit downs with journalists.

Remember how affronted he was when he was not asked a single question about Bournemouth ahead of the game against Eddie Howe's side in December?

Focus, naturally, was instead on what really happened in the Old Trafford tunnel following the Manchester derby a few days previously.

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Whereas once Mourinho used press conferences as important part of his pre-game strategy, they have become something of an inconvenience for him when he would rather just speak about his upcoming opponent.

Ahead of the Juventus game, three questions in, he was asked about Der Spiegel's claims City deceived UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. Mourinho refused to bite.

"I have thoughts from a few years ago but I keep the thoughts to myself," he said.

Those comments?

"I think that the FFP authorities, they have big work to do. Big work to do because probably there are some strategies of disguise but I have to believe that the FFP is going to have difficult work to do.” he told reporters 18 months ago.

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It seems unthinkable the question won't again be put to Mourinho on Friday ahead of the weekend's huge Manchester derby. And do not bet against him giving a different answer.

This was the man, after all, who bemoaned how City could buy full-backs for the price of the striker not so long ago. And Mourinho has not shied away from fanning the derby flames in the last 12 months.

Mourinho and Guardiola struck an unwritten agreement ahead of the pair's move to Manchester in 2016 but there was a bit of needle in the run-up to the first derby of last season.

Whether it was speaking at length about Guardiola's yellow ribbon or City's tactical fouls, Mourinho had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

"They have lots of people surrounding the ball area and they have a very strong - and this is a great quality- transition in the next few seconds after they lose the ball and many times they need what is called a tactical foul. Then it is up to the referee to analyse and to make a decision, but I cannot speak about that."

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Derby referee Michael Oliver will have done well not to take notice back in December. Indeed, nearly a year on, Guardiola is still being asked about tactical fouls - something he had not encountered before Mourinho's comments.

Gary Neville even went as far to say 'there's a lot of the dark arts there in terms of the way they play' following City's win against Spurs last month.

United ultimately went on to lose the derby a year ago but we all know what happened in the tunnel after as Mourinho, again, took centre stage Just as he did in the aftermath of the win against Juventus by cupping his ear to those home fans who had insulted his family.

It is remarkable to say it - United are one of the biggest clubs in the world - but this role of the underdog suits Mourinho to the ground when coming up against Juventus and City.

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Throw in the FA's appeal against an independent commission's decision to clear him for his touchline language after the Newcastle win last month and Mourinho has all the ingredients to adopt that favoured siege mentality of his.

The one difference being that he is not resorting to parking the bus like he has previously in this sort of situation - not just yet anyway.

United, and Mourinho, appear to have rallied at just the right time.

Read more of our top United stories here

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