Antonio Conte says he has no regrets about firing back at Jose Mourinho and does not believe their public war of words is damaging the reputations of Chelsea or Manchester United.
Tensions escalated further following Chelsea’s goalless draw with Norwich City on Saturday, with Conte calling Mourinho a “little man” with a “very low profile” as well as a “fake” after the United manager had made an apparent reference to the Italian’s past suspension for failure to report match-fixing.
Mourinho is yet to publicly respond to Conte’s latest attack and while the Chelsea head coach was unwilling to add to his criticism in a news conference to preview his team’s Carabao Cup semifinal tie with Arsenal, he declined the opportunity to backtrack on his earlier comments.
Asked if he would take back any of the things he has said about Mourinho, Conte replied: “Do I have the look of a person who regrets? I don’t think so. We both said these things and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Sources have told ESPN FC that there is currently no appetite within the Football Association to intervene in the conflict, and Conte dismissed the notion that Chelsea, United or the League Managers Association (LMA) should make efforts to end the dispute.
“I think it is not important for the LMA to understand, it is not important,” he insisted. “He said serious words, using serious words. I won’t forget this.
“This is not a problem for the clubs. It’s a problem between me and him. I stop.”
Conte’s stance ensures that all eyes will be on the Old Trafford touchline when Chelsea take on United in the Premier League on Feb. 25, but the Italian has a more pressing challenge to navigate first as he prepares for a two-legged Carabao Cup semifinal tie against Arsenal.
Eden Hazard is back in contention after missing the Norwich draw with a kick on the calf, but Conte said that Ross Barkley is not yet ready to make his debut.
“Tomorrow night I think is very soon, very soon for him,” Conte said of Barkley. “But we must be pleased because his physical condition is good, and he has started to train with us, understand our football.
“I don’t know [when he can play], it’s very difficult to say now. But at the same time I’m very positive, because the player is a good guy, he’s shown great will to work, great desire to help us very soon. I think it’s very positive. I’m very happy to have Ross with us for the rest of the season.”
The two teams played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium a week ago, and Conte is expecting a similarly entertaining battle this time around.
“I think also tomorrow, the game will be very open, because I think both teams want to try to win, try to attack,” Conte continued. “When you have two teams that do the same things, for sure you can have an exciting game. We want to reach the final, but Arsenal wants to do the same.”