Jose Mourinho is a manager that believes in winning matches with mind games and words against opposition managers, and he has been very successful with that.
He knows no boundary when it comes to war of words and he has done that to many managers including one of those that gave him the chance to develop as a manager in Louis Van Gaal.
The only manager he has respect for is Sir Alex Ferguson and the chemistry between them is a discussion for another time.
Whenever Mourinho gets to a new league he will look out for the potential title contenders to attack with words and destabilize their mentality.
By December last year, he knew it would be nearly impossible to catch Manchester City and the attention then turned to a top-four finish.
With Spurs and Liverpool a little far from United towards the end of December, he believes their closest rival is Chelsea with Conte in charge and he will do anything to ensure United increase the gap between the two teams.
Chelsea finished a point above United in 2017 and that might have prompted the outspoken manager to refer to his Chelsea counterpart as a ‘clown’ earlier this month.
Many may argue that no name was mentioned when Mourinho made that comment but Conte was very sure of the intent and rationale behind that comment.
He was waiting and preparing for his chance to give an appropriate response to the ‘clown’ remark made by the United boss, he started digging and looking for Jose’s previous comments and remarks regarding similar situations.
This will have impact in their next couple of games as the manager spent more time thinking about the response to give rather than spending more time preparing his team for their upcoming games.
Chelsea went on to draw four matches in which they failed to score a single goal in three of them, against Arsenal in the EFL Cup, Leicester City in the League and Norwich City in the FA Cup.
Within those matches, Mourinho has taunted Conte by making reference to the Italian’s match-fixing scandal in which he served a four-month touchline ban in 2012/2013 while at Juventus by saying he will never be suspended for match-fixing, though Conte was later acquitted of the charge in a court in Italy in 2016.
Conte hit back and called Mourinho a ‘little man’ more than three times in the subsequent press conference, which reflects Conte’s frustration and distractions as a result of Jose’s comments coupled with the growing pressure from the fans and the board as the bad results keep piling up.
The man Mourinho is ever ready for war of words and you can be sure he has ready made answers to every barb thrown at him - in fact, he flourishes in this type of situation and that has been a very effective match-winning method for him in the past.
His unpopular spats with Arsene Wenger gave him edge over the latter when he first arrived at Chelsea during his first stint with the club.
Wenger has not recorded up to three wins against Mourinho, who has won several games against the latter.
Conte, on the other hand, is not used to this type of situation, he is energetic on the touchline but always appears dispirited in the press conferences. He chooses his words carefully with caution and that can be read from his passive image at every interview.
It was not long before Conte realized the damage his rant with Mourinho has caused his team, realizing the effect this has had on his players. Conte was ready to adjust and he was the first to throw in the towel by suggesting that the pair can meet in a room to try and explain (settle) their differences.
He’ll try as much as possible to avoid further feuds with Jose and he was quick to say “I said I stop” when he was further questioned on the issue.
Knowing fully well that Jose has gotten to his head, Conte will avoid further feuds with the former Chelsea manager and focus all of his attention to getting his team back to the winning way in other to avoid bad results from subsequent games.
With Chelsea winning 4-0 against Brighton and four points adrift of United, Conte seems to be getting his attention back on his team and leaving the war of words to the warlord himself. It is only a matter of time for us to know if Mourinho is done playing with Conte’s head or not.