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Q&A: Jose on the XI, our preparation and Chelsea

Jose Mourinho has spoken exclusively to us ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, discussing the squad's preparation for the showpiece event, being reunited with his former club and how he'll tell the players of their involvement...

Jose, as you did for the semi-final, you’ve been training for the final away from the Aon Training Complex. What are the benefits of doing that?
“We are together, 24 hours per day, and as we are not going to be for around two months, we are going to miss each other so it’s a good way to say goodbye to the season – to be together playing a game. Now, some, but not many, enjoy a well-deserved holiday and others have the motivation, the honour and the pleasure to go to a World Cup and represent their countries.”

It worked very well when you trained at Fulham before the semi-final, so is this something you’ll look to do for more big games in future as well?  
“It was a different situation – two days in three days, travelling twice, Bournemouth not so far to London where we were playing the semi-final. It was different circumstances and this was about three days, two training sessions and, as I was saying, is the last one.”

What’s the mood like in the squad ahead of this big game?
“It’s a big game, it’s a final, the mood is good. Everyone wants to play in finals and not everybody has the pleasure to do it, so for everyone in football, it’s the kind of match that everyone wants to play in and we have the possibility to do it. Of course, the mood is good.”

You’ve got a good record in big finals across your career. What’s the key in games like this when the margins are so fine?
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. First of all, I don’t think there is a relation between what happened before and what will happen in the future. The only thing that was, and always will be, is my happiness to play in big matches. If you ask me if I prefer to be on my holidays after the Watford match or to be working this week preparing for the final, I would always say preparing for the final.”

Jose Mourinho says

"If you ask me whether I prefer to be on my holidays after the Watford match, or to be working this week preparing for the final, I would always say preparing for the final."

A lot of the players have already played in big finals, including two last season in the EFL Cup and Europa League. Is that a help or an advantage?
“Yes, but if you look to the opponent, the opponent is no different than us. Sometimes there’s a little bit of difference in that know - which can make a difference, like you would, for example, feel us against Ajax and Atletico [Madrid] against Marseille. But Chelsea players against Manchester United players, I think they all know what the final is and what Wembley is. I think there will be a problem.”

As the kick-off is at 17:15 BST, it makes for a long day. Does that make it a challenge to make sure the preparations are spot on?
“It’s okay – it’s better than 19:45 or 20:45 or even 22:00 like I have had before in Spain [with Real Madrid]. We are prepared, we train hard, we finish today [Friday] and tomorrow [Saturday] is just preparing for the game. Of course, there will be a little bit of anxiety as people want the game to arrive, but I suppose at 15:00 we are moving from the hotel to the direction of the dressing room and that is when everything starts.”

Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial weren’t available last time out. How are they ahead of the game?
“I think Anthony is fine and Lukaku let’s wait until the last moment to make a decision.”

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How difficult is your job as a manager to tell players they are not playing or they are not in the squad?
“It’s not the nicest part of the job, for sure, but the only way to try to compensate is to be honest with everybody and to say the process of being in the final and playing in the final belongs to everyone. Everyone had a participation in the season and the final belongs to everyone – not just the ones that are on the pitch.”

Jose Mourinho says

"Everyone participated in the season and the final belongs to everyone – not just the ones that are on the pitch."

You won this competition in 2007 when you were in the Chelsea dugout. What’s your main memory of 11 years ago?
“The main memory is exactly that – we were going for the history, the first final at the new Wembley. Lots of players, clubs and managers win the FA Cup – every year there is a new FA Cup winner. But there is only one manager that won the first FA Cup at the new Wembley and that was what I thought and felt at that moment.”

If you do win it, you would be the first manager since 1959 to win the FA Cup with two different clubs.
“I don’t like the ifs. Let’s speak about it after the game tomorrow.”

You are Chelsea’s most successful ever manager. Does that make it a little bit more significant for you because it’s against them?

“Before the game and after the game, yes. I have people in the club that I am really, really big friends with. Gary Staker and Dr. [Paco] Biosca are the two big ones. They are my big, big friends but I have a lot of friends, even some of the players that I worked with. Some of the staff and some of the board too. They are people I worked with and people who I like, so before and after is not the same, but during the match, I want to beat Chelsea.”

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You’ve won domestic cups all over Europe. Is the FA Cup slightly different because of its heritage?
“Yes, it is. In Italy, it’s not a big deal. In Portugal, it’s a beautiful day but also in Spain maybe because in the final I played against Barcelona – it was Real-Barcelona. If it was not Real-Barcelona, it was Real against another team and it wasn’t so significant. But the English FA Cup is the one where it doesn’t matter the team or the dimension, the FA Cup is historically the best cup of all domestic cups.”

Just finally, regardless of what happens in the final, how do you think we should view the season overall?
“It depends on the attitude you want to look at it. If you want to look at it the positive way, you focus on all the improvements. If you want to look in a negative way, people can look in a negative way. But me analysing myself and my players, it’s not the result of one match that is going to change what I think. The boys and everyone at the club work hard and I’m pleased with them, and this match is not going to change my way of looking at it.”

How I’ll judge 2017/18 article

The boss discusses how he’ll reflect on the current campaign as it draws to a climax with the Emirates FA Cup final.