EPL

Mourinho not my friend or my enemy, says old foe Pellegrini

By Sports Desk November 21, 2019

Manuel Pellegrini would not deem Jose Mourinho his enemy or his friend as the long-time rivals prepare for a Premier League reunion on Saturday.

Pellegrini's struggling West Ham welcome Tottenham and their freshly installed head coach Mourinho to London Stadium this weekend, reprising a rivalry that has simmered for a decade.

Mourinho was publicly courted by Real Madrid before being appointed at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, replacing Pellegrini despite the sacked Chilean having led Los Blancos to a then club-record haul of 96 points as they finished runners up to Barcelona in LaLiga.

Pellegrini resumed his career at Malaga, with Mourinho pointedly observing, "If [Madrid] get rid of me, I will go to a big club in the Premier League or Serie A."

Indeed, both ended up at big Premier League clubs, with Pellegrini winning the title in 2013-14 at Manchester City before Mourinho's Chelsea succeeded them as champions the following season.

Mourinho repeated a wilful mispronunciation of "Mr Pellegrino" when referring to his opposite number, who claimed Chelsea played "like a small team, like Stoke" during a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium in September 2014.

Pellegrini has won four and drawn three of the pair's 14 meetings, prevailing in their most recent encounter when West Ham beat an embattled version of Mourinho's Manchester United 3-1.

"Maybe I can think a different way, but he is not my enemy," Pellegrini told a pre-match news conference on Thursday.

"Everyone has their options to play football in the way they want and say what they want to say. You cannot always be criticising.

"That's why he is not my friend, but he is not my enemy. We have different ways of thinking about [everything], that's the only difference that we have.

"Maybe [I will have a drink with him]. We have been together a lot of times out of football together. I repeat, he is not my enemy."

Pellegrini expressed sympathy for Mauricio Pochettino, whose sacking kicked off a whirlwind 11 hours at Tottenham that concluded with Mourinho's appointment.

"Tottenham have a very good team with important players. Being outside of Tottenham, you cannot know what has happened there, but the results were not what Tottenham are used to having," he said.

"Now they have a new manager, unfortunately for Pochettino, because I think he was a manager who did very good work in a lot of years in Tottenham.

"I do not know the reason why he was sacked but now they have another experienced manager in Jose Mourinho, who will always give important things to his teams.

"[Mourinho] is just in charge of the team for two days so I don't think he can change too much. They will play in a similar way.

"That is not an important problem for us to solve, we must give a good performance as a team."

Of more pressing concern to Pellegrini is a run of two points from West Ham's past six Premier League matches since beating Mourinho's former employers from Old Trafford in September.

It leaves the Hammers languishing in 16th, a point and two places below Tottenham.

"I have had 33 years in this profession, I know football," Pellegrini added. "As I have said, my pressure I put on myself is bigger than any other pressure."

West Ham's midfield could be bolstered by Jack Wilshere and club captain Mark Noble, who trained untroubled this week following respective groin and ankle complaints.

Forward Michail Antonio might also be in contention after almost three months out with a hamstring injury.

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