Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho has described Liverpool’s Anfield stadium as a ‘beautiful place’ and insisted his Manchester United stars will relish playing in such an intense atmosphere on Saturday.
Former United players Gary Neville and Mikael Silvestre spoke this week about the extraordinary hostility generated by their club’s visits to Anfield, and the tension that goes with it.
But United boss Mourinho insisted that, despite the long-standing history of animosity between the bitter rivals, his players should enjoy the opportunity to play in front of a packed Anfield crowd.
“You know this is quite funny for me because I think when people speak about big atmospheres, it looks like we don’t like, it looks like it’s a problem for us to go to a certain place and to face a big atmosphere – this is what we want,” Mourinho told reporters on Friday.
“I am surprised that you speak about that in a negative way, I am even more surprised when I hear former, big players speak about atmospheres like something sinister, something that worries.
“It motivates us, it is something that we want, it is something that if we could have every match we would have every match.
“You know, when Barcelona played against Las Palmas with an empty stadium, do you think the players were happy with that?
“Do you think Las Palmas players wouldn’t prefer to play with Nou Camp, full of people and a great atmosphere?
“We are speaking about Old Trafford, in this case Anfield, like it’s a big problem. It’s a satisfaction, that’s what we want.”
Mourinho has been critical of the lack of atmosphere at United’s own Old Trafford stadium, joking earlier this season that he hoped supporters had returned from their summer holidays in order to add noise at home games.
– Electrifying –
And, in the light of those comments, Mourinho claimed he can have no complaints if Anfield produces one of its traditional electrifying occasions for his team’s visit.
“I never see a player complain ‘oh, this atmosphere was very strong’ – we complain when the atmosphere is flat,” he said.
“When we play at home and we don’t see big enthusiasm in the people, we complain.
“So we go to where we want to go, we go to play against a big team with a big tradition in an amazing stadium with great tradition.
“We know that the fans have huge animosity against Manchester United historically, but this is what we want so we are very happy to have one more opportunity in our careers to play in this beautiful conditions. It’s beautiful to play at Anfield. Beautiful.”
Mourinho will visit Anfield without three front-line midfielders – Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini – all of whom have been ruled out with injury.
But having been widely criticised last season for United’s approach at Liverpool almost exactly 12 months ago, when his side ground out a drab goalless draw, Mourinho reacted sarcastically when asked if his team would be more adventurous this year.
“I play with one defender and nine strikers, don’t worry about it, we play with one guy behind and then we go with a new system and we play with nine strikers, don’t worry about it,” said Mourinho.
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