Jose Mourinho won't allow Antonio Conte to humiliate him again in FA Cup showdown

Antonio Conte won’t mug off Jose Mourinho again.

At least not to the same extent that he did in October when the Special One limped away from Stamford Bridge with his ego bruised, following a four-goal bashing.

Why?

Manchester United are no longer hostages to fortune.

They know what the ­manager wants.

And they can deliver it.

Pedro celebrates scoring their first goal
United have vastly improved since they were beaten 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in October
(Photo: Reuters)

The reason why I give ­Chelsea the edge is because Zlatan Ibrahimovic is missing.

It is a shame for the FA Cup that the Swede will be absent in south-west London, it’s a stage tailor-made for him.

A major occasion, under the lights, TV audience of ­millions. Two tribes going head-to-head. That is not to be – and that’s the reason why I think Mourinho will stop short of giving Conte a bloody nose. Look at what the Portuguese has done this season.

He has brought gradual ­improvement, while nodding in the direction of United’s heritage.

Now they are becoming a mirror of their manager.

United have made good progress under Mourinho
(Photo: REUTERS)

They are far more difficult to beat. They are putting in the hard yards.

And there is no philosophy for them to be dragged down by, like there is with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

Of course, the fans want fantasy football at Old Trafford. They expect their teams to play with a style and a swagger. But they are not blindsided by a philosophy that must be followed at all costs.

Mourinho is far smarter than that.

Given half a chance, he’s slyly mentioned that United are playing more attractive football, while realising, if he is to mirror what went on in the past, he needs a solid base.

The United manager is building a solid foundation for future success at Old Trafford
(Photo: John Peters)

And gradually the winning feeling is returning.

By winning the League Cup, he has at least ­guaranteed a pot on the sideboard.

I very much get the feeling that the Europa League is getting Jose’s full attention too – not just because it will be another trophy, but also ­because it gives him entry into the Champions League.

It’s not ideally how Manchester United’s ­decision-makers would have wanted it.

But, in qualifying, he would have surpassed Louis van Gaal’s achievements and ­returned the club to a place where it feels it belongs.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal and Chris Smalling celebrate winning the final
Louis van Gaal failed to get United into the top four before being sacked at the end of last season
(Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

However, what would it mean to Conte to reach the FA Cup last four?

With the prospective ­semi-finalists all coming from the Premier League’s top six, Chelsea would not have an easy passage ­towards etching the club’s name in history by landing a double. But, given the lead they have in the title race, by the time the semi-­finals are played, the Blues’ boss will not be rotating his squad.

He won’t have any worries about reaching the top four.

He won’t have any issues about Champions League football, like Manchester City may have.

Antonio Conte is chasing a domestic double
(Photo: Getty Images Europe)

And he won’t be playing under the kind of pressure Arsene Wenger will have for the rest of this season.

Manchester United ­represent a major hurdle.

But Chelsea’s players need fear no one this season.

And, with Zlatan kicking his heels, that should give Conte’s boys the confidence to take a giant step towards a piece of history.

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