Jose Mourinho has pleaded with Liverpool and Manchester United supporters not to become embroiled in a vile war of words making a mockery of the respective tragedies involving both clubs.
The two north-west rivals meet at Liverpool’s Anfield ground on Monday, the first meeting between the teams since Mourinho took over as United manager in pre-season.
Both clubs have already issued a statement imploring their own supporters to refrain from tasteless chants that make reference to the Hillsborough disaster that left 96 people dead during Liverpool’s 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground or the Munich air crash that killed 23 people as United flew back from a European Cup tie in 1958.
Mourinho echoed the call for supporters not to overstep the bounds of common decency during an eloquent news conference on Friday.
“But the human tragedy is something much more serious, and I think is the last thing somebody should use in a football pitch, because they were really big tragedies.
“So I would be really sad if in such a big football match that was a negative point,” he explained.
The Portuguese boss had a tempestuous relationship with Liverpool in his time as Chelsea manager, taking part in a number of high-profile, often controversial, matches with the Merseyside club.
And while the United manager pointed out that his current side’s trip to Liverpool will not decide either club’s fate this season, he did not under-estimate the intensity of the rivalry.
“I have to feel it, to play it, and then take my conclusions, but I have been in England for a long time,” said Mourinho.
“Obviously I have never played this match, but I played many times against Liverpool, many times against Manchester United, I understand the dimension of the clubs and now I understand better the dimensions of two big historical rivals.
“But the season for me is not about the Anfield match and Old Trafford match (against Liverpool) in January, I think, the season is about many matches, many points to win, many points to lose and targets to achieve.”
Mourinho added: “I look forward to it, yes, I always like to play at Anfield. I won many times there, I also lost, I won big matches, I lost big matches, so I cannot say I like to go there because I’m always successful, because it’s not true.
“I like the atmosphere, normally the characteristics of the matches, but being Manchester United manager means something more, because we cannot compare the historic rivalry between my former clubs and United and Liverpool.
“It can be comparable to Real Madrid v Barcelona, Benfica v Porto, these kind of matches,” insisted Mourinho, himself a former Real and Porto manager.
Liverpool are currently fourth in the table, with German manager Jurgen Klopp’s team three points and two places ahead of United.