Jose Mourinho has been looking ahead to Manchester United’s pre-season clash with Manchester City in Houston on Thursday night, noting that he views the encounter as a “competitive training session”.
The two Manchester clubs will meet in a friendly for the first time ever after seeing their clash in Beijing last summer cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions.
Man United have already claimed wins over LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake City over the past week, while Pep Guardiola’s men are yet to play a pre-season game.
And Mourinho, speaking at the club’s hotel, has noted that the nature of the opponent does not change the fact that these games are about improving fitness and building on lessons implemented in training.
“For me it is a competitive training session that you try to win but it is not the most important thing,” he said. “We had two matches against MLS teams, now it is time to raise the level and now we get three of the best teams in Europe (in City, Real Madrid and Barcelona).
“I don’t know the way they will face the game, if they want to win the tournament, the derby, I don’t know.
“But I know what I want – that is to give minutes to my players, to try to improve, to make mistakes, to repeat exercises from training to stop those mistakes, to make the two new players try to understand the team-mates and for the team-mates to understand them.
“There is always a little bit of rivalry, a little bit of an extra ingredient, but for me it is a friendly. I am not going to jump to celebrate goal, or cry after any goal we concede. It is preparation.”
To Mourinho, football is neither art nor science, but indeed a kind of craft – something developed and refined over time. Mistakes are necessary. That 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge last October precipitated an unbeaten league run that lasted until May. This is why the Portuguese can never stand still; there is no pinnacle, only further lessons to be learned.
And his approach to the derby serves as another example of that particular mindset. He knows that supporters will want him to launch a suitable battle cry as he goes up against Guardiola and City, but the result will be a secondary matter of concern in Houston. This is the time to experiment, possibly fail, and take on lessons moving forward.