Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho declared “I don’t care about fixtures” after David Moyes expressed his frustration at Manchester United’s start to their Barclays Premier League title defence.
Moyes described an opening five-game sequence which includes games against Mourinho’s Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City - as well as a tricky opening trip to Swansea tomorrow - as the toughest the club have faced for 20 years and has sought reassurances from the Premier League that the run of games was nothing more than coincidence.
It was the sort of conspiracy theory Moyes’ predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson often aired during his near 27-year reign at Old Trafford and Mourinho was less than sympathetic.
The self-proclaimed Special One, whose season begins against Hull on Sunday before matches with Aston Villa on August 21 and at Old Trafford on August 26, said: “I don’t care if we play the first match against Hull City or against Man United, or we play three consecutive matches away or at home.
“You have to play 19 matches at home and 19 matches away. I simply don’t care.”
Mourinho suggested that if he had shared the same views as Moyes, he would face disciplinary action.
“If I say that I’m in big trouble,” he said.
“If I say that I put myself in a difficult situation, so do the same with David.”
He addressed the possibility for a conspiracy in jocular fashion, referring to “hot balls and cold balls” and a computer virus.
“I was informed the fixtures were by computer, or old fashioned with hot balls and cold balls,” Mourinho said.
“If it’s a computer, unless the computer has a virus, I don’t know.”
The only time fixtures irritate Mourinho is when it comes to midweek Champions League matches.
He believes more could be done to help English teams in Europe, by shifting fixtures further away from European games.
Moyes has a scheduling grievance for a different reason.
Moyes said on Thursday: “The old manager told me those sort of things happened. I hope it’s not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year (that) the fixtures have been made much more difficult.
“I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure. It’s the hardest start Manchester United have had for 20 years.”
The Premier League issued a response to Moyes’ comments, saying: “David has put these concerns to us. We have absolutely assured him the process is random and above board. He has accepted those assurances.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes negotiating a tough start to the Premier League campaign is “part of being a champion”.
Wenger said: “It depends how you play always. If you have a good start, if they manage to play well during these games it will be a strength for them because after that they maybe have easier games.
“The coincidence of the fixtures is part of being a champion.
“Sometimes you have a bit of luck, sometimes you have bad fixtures. That is part of it.”
United defender Chris Smalling believes United’s tough start could ultimately work to their advantage.
“We’ve got some big fixtures at the start of the season but if we can put on some really good performances and pick up a few points it’s going to give us a big boost and set us apart from our rivals,” said Smalling, speaking before Moyes had his say on the fixtures.
“In one sense it is good to get them out of the way.”