Jose Mourinho has been taking Bjorn Borg’s lead as he keeps his focus only on Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal rather than the Premier League title race.
The Portuguese has emphasised he has a one-game-at-a-time philosophy – and likened it to the way tennis great Borg was coached.
Ahead of the game at the Emirates Stadium, United are eight points behind leaders Manchester City in second place, while Arsenal are fourth.
Asked if he saw the match as must-win, manager Mourinho said: “I play a game at a time and I think that’s the way to do it.
“Yesterday I was watching an interesting movie, Bjorn Borg versus John McEnroe, and Borg’s coach was telling him that all the time: ‘One point at a time, think just about one point’.
“And I tell my players: ‘Think just about the game’.
“I always say this. It doesn’t matter what comes after, or what happened before. It is just this game. So now it is Arsenal.
“We don’t think how many points we are in front of them (four), how many we are behind the leaders. It is just Arsenal.”
It was then suggested to him that he was like McEnroe and his old foe, the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, like Borg, to which Mourinho replied with a smile: “No. I don’t play tennis. I love tennis, but I don’t play tennis.”
Since appointing Mourinho, United have faced fellow ‘big six’ rivals away seven times in the league and not won once, securing three points and scoring only one goal in matches against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham.
The 54-year-old has been criticised as having a negative approach in such games.
Asked if it was worth taking a risk in a contest like Saturday’s, Mourinho said: “It depends what you think about risk.
“I think in the beginning of football, the guy that decided to say ‘defenders’, ‘attackers’ was bad. Because everybody has to defend and attack, especially in modern football.
“You can say what you want, you can analyse in the perspective you want to, but for me it is simple.
“My goalkeeper needs to know how to attack, and my striker needs to know how to defend.
“When we have the ball we are going to attack with 11 players and when Arsenal have the ball we will defend with 11 players.”
United will be without injured trio Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Marouane Fellaini, while Nemanja Matic is a doubt due to a muscular problem.
Jones (thigh) has been out of action since limping off in the first half of England’s match against Germany on November 10.
And Mourinho subsequently hit out at England’s treatment of the defender, specifically that Jones had been given six painkilling injections in order to feature in a friendly.
Yesterday, England boss Gareth Southgate spoke about Jones, saying he had “massive empathy” for Mourinho, while also stressing he had “every trust in our medical team that they make the right calls”.
Southgate added: “We have got ongoing dialogue over this situation.”
But when Mourinho was asked today if the England camp had explained more to him about the matter, he simply said ”no”, and gave the same response when then asked if they had told him anything at all.
Tony Leen and Larry Ryan of the Irish Examiner preview the weekend’s big Premier League clash with Peter McNamara, while Steve Neville and Mikie Sheehan discuss the potential talent drain from Irish and Munster rugby.