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Paul Ince: Jose Mourinho won’t be bothered by the abuse from Chelsea fans

As Jose Mourinho prepares to take Manchester United to Stamford Bridge, Paul Ince looks at how mentally strong you have to be when you return to an old stomping ground

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Players and managers aren’t naive. You know you go back to play a former club you’re going to go there and get plenty of stick, so it’s not a surprise when it happens. These games are intense, and the last thing you should be worrying about is what the crowd are going to be like and whether it will affect your performance. Players have to be stronger than that. If you’re mentally weak then of course, it can get to you, but that was never a problem for me. I went out there and tried to show the opposition what they were missing not having me in their team, proving that I was still a very good player. Mourinho will no doubt have a similar attitude as the manager.

When you’ve moved clubs, the first thing you look for when the fixtures are announced are the games where you are due to head back to your old stomping ground Sometimes you’d look and think, ‘Oh sh*t, I’ve got to go there for an evening game in November.’ But when the time comes you’re ready for anything. Will it bother Jose if he went there and got plenty of stick? Of course not.

You have to remember how much Jose Mourinho achieved at Chelsea. There will be a minority who will give him plenty of abuse on Sunday afternoon, but it’ll be disappointing if he isn’t given a really good welcome. He brought lots of silverware to the club including three league titles. They need to draw a line through his departure last year and remember the success and domination he brought to the club. Chelsea fans gave Claudio Ranieri a fantastic reception when he arrived with Leicester last season, and it should be the same for Jose. The fans idolised him a few years ago and that relationship won’t just be forgotten quickly.

Of course Jose will want to go back to Chelsea and leave with three points. He’ll have his Manchester United team fired up, and the players will know how much it means to the boss. Hopefully they’ll be more fired up than they were at Anfield on Monday night anyway!

This is a fixture I always look forward to, because the 1994 FA Cup final always brings a smile to my face. To beat that team 4-0 and win so convincingly was an unbelievable achievement. Chelsea probably dominated for the first 30 minutes but, and no disrespect to Chelsea, after Eric Cantona opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 59 minutes it was easy. My only regret from that game is squaring the ball to Brian McClair in stoppage time when we were 3-0 up after I rounded goalkeeper Dimitri Kharine – I should have just buried it myself!

At that time I was going head-to-head with Dennis Wise, who was a top player. He had a reputation for being a little naughty and a little nasty – and there’s no doubt he was – but that shouldn’t take away from how good a midfielder he was. I always looked forward to going to battle with Wise, and you always knew what you were going to get. You’d be standing there without the ball and he’d pinch the back of your neck, tread on your toes, whisper in your ear, and drag his studs down your Achilles. There were no grey areas. Wise would try to intimidate the opposition, but in those days myself and Roy Keane couldn’t be daunted by anyone. We knew we were going to war. Those were the battles you look forward to – because at the time Wise was a fantastic player in a Chelsea team that was one of the best clubs in England.

These United players have to believe they have a good chance of winning on Sunday afternoon. Chelsea aren’t quite there yet. This isn’t a side firing on all cylinders. If you’ve got aspirations of being in the Champions League and competing for the title, you have to go to sides like Chelsea and win away from home. A draw does nothing for either team – it just allows Manchester City and others to pull away. You have to go there and win, rather than take a point. It’s still early in the season but United could be eight points behind City with a draw against Chelsea and it’s a big ask to claw that back.  

Manchester United haven’t beaten Chelsea in the last 10 games, but you can dress statistics up whatever way you want. The players know the stats, and the managers know the stats, but the game is on Sunday. It’s all about Stamford Bridge at 4.00pm. Not one United player is going to walk onto that pitch thinking, ‘Oh God, we haven’t beaten Chelsea in 10, we’re in trouble here.’ That doesn’t happen. Mourinho and the players are mentally strong, and they have to go there believing they can come away with the win, and build some serious momentum ahead of the Manchester derby on Wednesday.

What do you think?