18th December 2019 – the day when Jose Mourinho was sacked by Manchester United. The following day a club legend but a young manager named Ole Gunner Solskjaer took over.
Although not as experienced as Mourinho who has been in the job since 2000, Ole is not shying away from taking a dig on his predecessor. Mourinho is famous for his entertainment value off the field as well and the past week has seen him give animated replies to his counterpart.
The war of words between the two managers begun when Solskjaer pointed out his relief at Jose not being present at the Amex to measure the goalpost for the game where Graham Potter’s Brighton hit the woodwork 5 times in 90 minutes. Nevertheless, the Red Devils were able to win the battle against the Seagulls courtesy Bruno Fernandes’ penalty kick in the final minute of the match.
In his post-match interview to BT Sports Solskjaer said: “First of all you have to be happy that Jose is not here to measure the goal posts – it might have been a smaller goal!”
Earlier in the week, Tottenham faced Shkendija in North Macedonia in a Europa League qualifier game. Although Spurs won the game comfortably with a margin of 3-1, goalkeeper Joe Hart pointed to the Spurs bench that he felt the size of the goalpost was smaller than usual. Taking note of the fact, Jose Mourinho brought the issue forward to the UEFA Delegate and it was revealed that the goalpost was 5 cm too small.
The Portuguese was quick to fire a serve in direction of Solskjaer as he remarked that his successor should not to be concerned about the size of the goalpost but watch the dimensions of the 18-yard box- a clear dig pointing out United’s reliance on the high number of penalties awarded.
Asked if he measured the goalposts before the cup game against Chelsea, Mourinho told Sky Sports: “No, because I know the goalposts are fine. I think Ole yesterday was so happy and surprised with what happened to his team that he had a joke.
“But I understand for him the dimensions of the goalposts are not important. For him, what is important, is the dimensions of the 18-yard box.
“He would never accept to play with a 17-yard box, I think he would prefer a 22-yard box! For him it would be better.”
To this the Manchester United boss pointed out that they were just having a little bit of fun and there is no love lost between him and Jose. He expressed his respect for the Spurs boss but claimed that he is not one for the ‘mind games.’
In a pre-match press conference ahead of the Spurs game Ole remarked: “For me, Jose is a very charismatic coach and manager and you’ve enjoyed in the media talking to him, I’ve enjoyed watching him and he’s a winner – but I’m not one of these that really goes into all these ‘mind games’, I’ve got ultimate respect for him as a coach and his results and everything that he has given football.”
“I think it’s important that we have a bit of entertainment as well and Jose always throughout the years has given us some fantastic moments in football, both in his press conferences and on the pitch but as a striker I didn’t mind how big the box was when I got in there. It was just a strike on goal.”
Both Spurs and United underwent a rusty start to the campaign but are slowly picking up the pace as they play more matches. Manchester United lost their inaugural match against Crystal Palace but picked up points 3 points against a resilient Brighton. Meanwhile, the Spurs squad has been over worked with assignments in the Premier League, Europa League Qualifiers and Carabao Cup.
Mourinho’s side is coming off after knocking out Chelsea from the Carabao Cup on penalties and defeating Meccabi Haifa in a 7-2 demolition of the team in the Europa play-offs. However, not all is merry for the Spurs team as their talismanic forward Son Heung-min and playmaker-in-chief Giovani Lo Celso are doubtful for the fixture while Gareth Bale is unavailable due to a knee injury.
It remains to be seen how the war of words translates on field and if Ole Gunner Solskjaer can trump his senior or not.