Jose Mourinho believes the furore that has surrounded Anthony Taylor’s appointment as referee for Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United could affect the official’s performance on Monday.
The decision to have Manchester-based Taylor oversee the contest between the two north-west rivals was this week criticised by Keith Hackett, the former head of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited body, because he fears the “focus on him would be intolerable” should he make an error on Monday night.
Liverpool fans on social media have also taken umbrage with Taylor’s hiring, even though he supports non-league Altrincham, and it was similar scrutiny of an official last year that prompted the PGMOL to remove Leicester-based official Kevin Friend from Tottenham’s April game at Stoke, with Spurs then in pursuit of the Foxes in the title race.
United boss Mourinho, who is no stranger to controversial comments on referees, thinks the fact Taylor’s appointment has been queried in some quarters has already made his evening tougher.
“I have my view but I understood and I learned, if you want to call it, a lesson by being so many times punished by some words so I don’t want to say anything about it,” Mourinho said.
“I think Mr Taylor is a very good referee but I think somebody with intention is putting such a pressure on him that I feel that it will be difficult for him to have a very good performance.”
Taylor will be the man in the middle for a rivalry that has been overshadowed in recent meetings by disrespectful chanting and behaviour from both sets of supporters.
The two clubs released a joint statement in the week stating that any supporter involved in discrimination in the stands would be ejected and could face criminal prosecutions, and Mourinho used his pre-match press conference to urge the sets of fans to refrain from references to the Munich and Hillsborough tragedies.
Mourinho confidence in his players
On the pitch, the Portuguese is confident his players can retain their cool and not cause Taylor any additional issues.
“That’s what we are doing all season,” he added.
“Our disciplinary record is really, really good. We don’t have problems at all at this level. We are a team that plays with discipline, that is following everything that was told to us in the meetings that we had with the representatives of the Premier League and the referees.
“We don’t press referees, we behave on the touchline so that’s a point that we are very comfortable with.”
Man Utd team news
United defender Phil Jones will be missing on Merseyside but Mourinho otherwise reported a fully-fit squad after the international break, and he took aim at those players who spent the two weeks recuperating from injury on holiday rather than answering their country’s call.
“We were totally honest with the national teams, everybody went to the national teams, no fake injuries, no players on holidays in the sun in the Middle East when people think they are injured,” he said.
“In here, (there is) total honesty and the only player that is not in a condition to be selected is Phil Jones.”