Since Jose Mourinho made a return to management in England, he has had the opportunity to renew old rivalries with Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola.
In the late kickoff today there’s another flash from the past as Mourinho faces up to old foe Rafael Benitez when Manchester United welcome Newcastle United to Old Trafford.
Everyone knows of Mourinho’s long-standing feud with Arsene Wenger during his two spells in charge of Chelsea. And, of course, his Real Madrid side met Guardiola’s Barcelona in some fiery El Clasico encounters during their time in La Liga.
For Mourinho, though, there have been equally as memorable games against Benitez’s Liverpool while in charge of Chelsea between 2004 and 2007.
A game with Mourinho and Benitez both in the dugout has been long overdue, the pair haven’t faced off since August 2007 in a 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield – just a couple of weeks before Mourinho was dismissed by Chelsea.
Head-to-head, Mourinho just about has the upper hand – winning seven of his 16 meetings against Benitez, while losing five. The managers have had a share of the spoils on four occasions.
All 16 meetings took place when the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry was at its peak. Mourinho took the reins at Chelsea in 2004 after winning Liga Portuguesa and the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto.
Benitez, meanwhile, also won a domestic league and European double in the same year when he led Valencia to La Liga and UEFA Cup triumphs. Like Mourinho, the Spaniard’s next challenge lay in English football when he was appointed as manager of Liverpool, replacing Gerard Houllier in 2004.
When Mourinho faced off with Benitez, it was always clear what was in store. This was also the case when Sir Alex Ferguson’s United teams met Wenger’s free-flowing Arsenal in the late 90s and early 00s.
United and Arsenal’s titanic battles always encompassed a ‘go for the throat’ mentality from both sides, but games between Mourinho’s Chelsea and Benitez’s Liverpool were of stark contrast.
The games were like a game of football chess match, frequently on a knife edge and decided by the solitary goal.
Mourinho v Benitez – a history
In the 2004/05 season, the Mourinho-Benitez feud exploded into life when they met each other on five occasions throughout the campaign.
The two league meetings were both won 1-0 by Chelsea as the London club romped to the Premier League title in style in Mourinho’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge – putting 95 points on the board – a Premier League record.
Chelsea also won the League Cup that same season, beating Liverpool in the final 3-2 after extra time.
While the result may depict an open game, it was far from it during the 90 minutes. A Steven Gerrard own goal 10 minutes from time wiped out the one goal lead Liverpool had established just 43 seconds into the game through Norwegian defender John-Arne Riise.
Blue would eventually reign over red in Cardiff, though, when Chelsea won the game in extra-time.
Mourinho had the early upper hand over Benitez, but the latter soon made his mark against his rival in the 2005 Champions League semi-final.
Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ decided the tie and sent Liverpool to Istanbul where they famously beat Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan on penalties.
Just as he faced off with Guardiola so frequently in Spain, Mourinho and Benitez were becoming oh-so familiar with each other in England. In 2005/06, two Anfield clashes between the managers took place in the space of a week.
Liverpool were given special dispensation in the Champions League draw in 2005/06 after winning the competition three months earlier. As a result, they drew Chelsea in the group stages – the only time in Champions League history where two clubs from the same country were drawn against each other in the first round.
The midweek game was a stalemate in the Champions League, but Chelsea thumped Liverpool 4-1 four days later in the Premier League.
Another 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in December 2005 meant that Liverpool pipped Chelsea to top spot in the group. Both sides, though, suffered Champions League exits in the second round at the hands of Benfica and eventual 2006 winners Barcelona.
Just before their round of 16 Champions League ties, Mourinho completed back-to-back Premier League doubles over Benitez’s Liverpool when goals from William Gallas and Hernan Crespo gave Chelsea a comfortable 2-0 win.
Benitez wouldn’t go away, though. His Liverpool side denied Chelsea a place in the FA Cup final in 2006 – just as they had denied them a place in the Champions League final a year earlier – winning 2-1 in the semi-final at Old Trafford before beating West Ham United on penalties in the final.
More silverware would then come Benitez’s way when Liverpool again beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Community Shield in 2006.
Domestically, Chelsea and Liverpool shared three points a-piece in their two league meetings of 2006/07 – a 1-0 win for Chelsea in September 2006 and a 2-0 victory for Liverpool in September 2007.
When the business end of the season approached again, the two managers faced off again – Chelsea vs. Liverpool was becoming a familiar April/May fixture. As was the case in 2005 and 2006 in cup competitions, Benitez once again reigned supreme in 2007 when Liverpool knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage for the second time in three years.
Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Anfield cancelled out Chelsea’s one goal advantage they had established in the first leg by the same score line.
Buoyed by the Anfield crowd, Liverpool won on penalties to reach Athens where they would play Ancelotti’s AC Milan again. Unlike two years ago, however, the Italian side emerged victorious.
The next meeting between the managers would be the last one to date – a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August 2007. It would have been hard to believe that the former Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid managers wouldn’t face off again until over nine years later.
Now in charge of Manchester and Newcastle United, the two Champions League winning coaches will be re-united on the touchline.
Benitez has one famous win at Old Trafford to his name already – a 4-1 win over Ferguson’s United team in March 2009. A repeat of the same score line in favour of his side is extremely unlikely tomorrow as United haven’t yet conceded at home in the league this season.
The Magpies are also tough to break down – Benitez’s team boasted the joint-best defensive record in the Championship along with Brighton last season – and only both Manchester clubs and Spurs have conceded fewer goals than Newcastle in the Premier League so far this season.
The results of the meetings between the two managers also suggests that a goal fest is unlikely tomorrow. 13 of the 16 meetings between Mourinho and Benitez have produced just two goals or less over 90 minutes.
Of course, in football anything can happen. But if history is any indication, the traditional football chess match between Mourinho and Benitez could well be in order again, nine years on from their last meeting.
War not love… Mourinho v Benitez – famous quotes
2005 – Mourinho on Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’:
“The linesman scored the goal.”
2010 – Benitez when appointed manager of Internazionale in July 2010:
“There’s the coaches, first Mancini, then Mourinho and now me, and I hope to win more than them. We could win six trophies this season.”
“One thing is for certain. Benitez won’t do better than me. Another thing is also true that should he lift the Intercontinental Cup, he will have only won two games compared to my 13. Therefore it will be my trophy and not his.”
2014 – Benitez on Mourinho’s European failure, after Mourinho famously labelled Wenger a “specialist in failure”:
“Mourinho talks a lot about a lot of people, but I prefer to talk about facts.
“At Liverpool, with a squad half of the value of Chelsea, we twice knocked his Chelsea side out of the Champions League.
“Later, with the most expensive squad at Real Madrid, he did nothing in the Champions League. Now he says if there is an offer of hundreds of millions for Hazard and Oscar, maybe he can build a strong squad to win something.”
2015 – Mourinho about Benitez – in response to a statement from Benitez’s wife Montserrat Seara, who claimed that her husband had spent much of his career tidying up the mess of Mourinho:
“The lady is a bit confused, with all respect. I’m not laughing. She is confused because her husband went to Chelsea to replace Roberto Di Matteo and he went to Real Madrid and replaced Carlo Ancelotti.
“The only club where her husband replaced me was at Inter Milan, where in six months he destroyed the best team in Europe at the time.
“I think the lady needs to occupy her time, and if she takes care of her husband’s diet she will have less time to speak about me.”
Mourinho, Benitez and how they grew to dislike each other because they were so similar: they were once Europe’s two brightest coacheshttps://t.co/Ekvjreyzy7
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) November 17, 2017