I will never be banned for match-fixing: Mourinho escalates Conte feud after ‘senile dementia’ claim
Jesse Lingard wonder strike inspires 2-0 FA Cup win against Derby at Old Trafford, but Manchester United manager takes war of words with Conte to new level
Jose Mourinho intensified his war of words with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte in bizarre fashion after his team’s FA Cup victory over Derby, apparently referencing a match-fixing scandal in Italy.
The Manchester United manager was responding to comments made by Conte earlier in the day in which he appeared to make disparaging statements about Mourinho.
The Italian was even interpreted as suggesting the United manager may be suffering from “senile dementia” after Mourinho had made a reference, 24 hours earlier, to his own behaviour and that he no longer acts “like a clown”.
Initially, Mourinho appeared to be backing Conte following the furore caused by his words on Thursday – only then to make the reference to match-fixing.
“I was asked about my passion and, you know, I was speaking about myself and then the question to the Chelsea manager was that I said he behaved like a clown,” said Mourinho.
“Probably the journalist wanted to say that but didn’t have the courage so he said ‘Mourinho said you behaved like a clown’.
“I don’t blame the Chelsea manager at all and I understand his reaction. I was speaking about myself, saying I don’t need to behave like a clown to show passion.”
Mourinho referred to his managerial antics earlier in his career and said he had not lost his passion.
“I celebrated goals running 50 metres, I celebrated goals sliding on my knees, celebrations jumping in the crowd. I’m not free of that, especially if we score a winning goal in a specific moment I am not free to have an out-of-control reaction.
“What I was trying to say that I behave bad a few times and this moment I control myself better. It doesn’t mean my passion is not the same. So wrong question and obviously a strong answer and I don’t blame.”
The United boss – no stranger to controversy – then changed tack and referenced match-fixing.
“What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing,” he said. “That never happened to me and it will never happen.”
The surprising reference to “match-fixing” drew a follow-up question as to whether it was directly aimed at Conte.
The Chelsea boss was acquitted of sporting fraud charges in 2016. Prosecutors had requested a six-month suspended sentence following accusations he failed to report episodes of match-fixing while in charge at Serie B side Siena in 2011.
The former Italy manager – who has always denied any wrongdoing – served a four-month ban in relation to the affair in 2012.
But when mention was made of the accusations against Conte, Mourinho said: “Did he? Not me.”
Mourinho’s reference to that controversy was just the latest twist in a verbal spat between the managers that seemed to have reached a climax earlier in the day when Conte was quizzed by reporters.
The most contentious of Conte’s comments came when he used an Italian expression, “demenza senile” – senile dementia.
“I think he [Mourinho] has to see himself in the past, maybe he was speaking about himself in the past, yeah?” said Conte.
“Maybe sometimes, someone forgets what they said or his behaviour and sometimes I think there is, I don’t know the name, ‘demenza senile’, when you are a bit …”
Conte tapped his temple as he spoke, and was asked to clarify his comment. “It is like amnesia, when you can’t remember things,” he said.
Chelsea later tried to distance Conte from claims he had suggested his rival has dementia, saying he simply meant amnesia.
United’s 2-0 win over Championship high-fliers Derby in the third round of the FA Cup was secured by Jesse Lingard’s latest wonder strike and substitute Romelu Lukaku’s late effort.
Both attempts, which came in the final six minutes, were worthy of a highlights package in the first FA Cup tie involving Premier League giants United in 13 years not to be televised live.
United had lost just one of their previous 35 FA Cup games against lower-league sides but were heading for a replay until one-time Rams loanee Lingard, with his eighth goal in 10 games, smashed home a swerving volley, with Lukaku then adding a second having broken from the halfway line.
“I was feeling that we were close to scoring and we never stopped trying,” said Mourinho, who claimed the Championship was approaching Premier League quality.
“But when you get past 80 minutes and the goal hasn’t come, you fear the second match. But the team kept trying so I knew the goal could arrive.
“It was a great shot by Jesse Lingard in the top corner, he’s in a moment of confidence where things go well for him. He’s a good professional and a fantastic kid in the dressing room.”