Had things shaken out quite differently then Jose Mourinho could have been Liverpool manager.
The Reds were considering him for the role back in 2004, before ultimately deciding on Rafael Benitez and changing the course of English football history.
But while Mourinho has never – and surely now will never – be able to call Anfield home, he’s got a long and varied history with the stadium.
Tonight he’ll head there for the first time as Tottenham Hotspur manager in a game that looks as though it could have a sizeable say in the title race, and one which falls exactly two years to the day since Mourinho’s last visit there ended up costing him his job at Manchester United.
Here the ups, downs and last stands of Mourinho’s complete Anfield history.
January 1, 2005: Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
He was all smiles to begin with.
Mourinho’s first visit to Anfield came in an early New Year’s Day kick-off, meaning that he was met with a fairly sluggish home side and their fans.
The Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry hadn’t yet kicked into gear – the two clubs would play each other six more times in 2005 alone, and 14 more by the end of 2007 – and so Mourinho and Benitez still got on well, chatting cordially in the tunnel pre-match.
Chelsea’s Joe Cole grabbed a deflected late winner to keep the Blues on course for the title, and Mourinho was magnanimous post-match.
“The way both teams fought and tried to win the game means I think a draw would be a fair result,” he said.
“We knew it would be hard to play our possession football because Liverpool press well – they have a good manager and it was difficult to have control of the game.
“But I think we fought a lot to have this luck.”
Speaking of luck…
May 3, 2005: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (Champions League)
“It was a goal that came from the moon, from the Anfield stands.”
Wherever it came from, the proof that Luis Garcia’s effort counted could be seen on the scoreboard as Mourinho raged at the ‘ghost goal’ that sent Liverpool through to the Champions League final in Istanbul and knocked Premier League champions Chelsea out.
Even in his rage though, Mourinho’s respect for Anfield was there.
He said he felt the “magnificent” power of the home fans as they created an atmosphere that both John Terry and Frank Lampard have since admitted is the best they ever played in.
There is no doubt Garcia’s goal still rankles though, even now.
September 28, 2005: Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea (Champions League)
Liverpool’s unconventional passage into the 2005/06 Champions League as holders, not qualifiers, meant that they were not given ‘country protection’ status and so could therefore draw English sides straight away, so of course they got Chelsea.
That led to a couple of cagey group stage contests, and when Mourinho said he was happy with an Anfield point you started to get the first sense of the rivalry developing.
“I’m not 100% satisfied but it’s a point, so I’m not crazy with happiness but I’m not very sad. A point away is positive,” he said.
“Normally the team at home is not happy with a point but I think they are.”
Yep, hotting up.
October 2, 2005: Liverpool 1-4 Chelsea (Premier League)
Liverpool didn’t even get that point four days later in the Premier League, when goals from Frank Lampard, Damien Duff, Joe Cole and Geremi made Steven Gerrard’s equaliser irrelevant.
Mourinho had arrived into the game annoyed at what he saw as a lack of respect for his side, but after recording their eighth win from eight league games he came out swinging.
“We have eight matches and eight victories, with 16 goals, but people say we cannot play, that we are a group of clowns. This is not right,” he roared, before rounding on Dutch legend Johan Cruyff after he’d called Chelsea boring.
There was a dig at Liverpool and Benitez in there too, as Mourinho added: “They have to defend or wait for a mistake and a goal. When they play against us face-to-face they can’t win.”
January 20, 2007: Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea (Premier League)
Petr Cech was returning for Chelsea after his fractured skull, but he’d been beaten twice inside 17 minutes by a predatory Dirk Kuyt strike and then a brilliant Jermaine Pennant volley.
It was all too quick for Mourinho, who had no excuses.
“I was waiting for 15 or 20 minutes to go by with no goals conceded and the confidence arriving,” he said.
“But when the team is very fragile on the pitch and mentally not so self-confident it is difficult.”
The loss left Chelsea six points behind Manchester United, a gap they couldn’t close.
May 1, 2007: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea: 1-1 agg, Liverpool win on penalties (Champions League)
Daniel Agger’s strike had taken the Champions League semi-final to penalties and left Benitez and his staff sitting on the ground until Kuyt fired in the winning kick after two big Pepe Reina saves.
The managerial feud was probably at its height now, and Mourinho was forced to defend the idea that he’d motivated Liverpool by engaging in a slanging match with Benitez.
“I respected Liverpool always in my words,” he said. “I don’t need to say more and today I think the best team was Chelsea.
“We were the best team today, even against a team only playing for the Champions League.”
Liverpool would finish the Premier League season third, 15 points behind Chelsea in second.
August 19, 2007: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Referee Rob Styles was the unwitting star of this one after giving Chelsea a penalty he later apologised for.
In one of those incidents which probably led to everyone saying that VAR would one day clear everything up, Styles gave Chelsea a penalty for an apparent foul by Steve Finnan on Florent Malouda, a decision referees chief Keith Hackett later likened to a player missing an open goal as he dropped him for the following week.
Mourinho was fine with it though.
“I haven’t seen the replay of the incident and it was difficult to make out what was happening at the time,” he said.
“Rafa has his opinion and I have mine. I judged the game to be a good and a fair one.
“Perhaps there were too many cards but overall I thought Mr Styles had a positive game.”
April 27, 2014: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea (Premier League)
It would be almost seven years until Mourinho’s next visit, but he made sure it was one people remember.
His role in preventing Liverpool getting the win that would have in all likelihood helped secure a first league title in 24 years has since gone down in folklore, with his charge down the touchline and beating of the chest after Willian’s goal to wrap it up something that seemed to be about a lot more than just this result.
“They wanted us to be the clowns in the circus” said Mourinho months later, something that he refused to countenance as he exorcised some Anfield ghosts.
It seemed personal for him on that day, and he put on a masterclass in party pooping.
November 8, 2014: Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea (Premier League)
Brendan Rodgers had rested Steven Gerrard and other star names for a 1-0 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the midweek, and that basically meant he had to get a result here.
Emre Can had given the hosts the lead, but Chelsea turned the tables and won it thanks to Gary Cahill and Diego Costa, with the top of the table Blues now 15 points ahead of eighth-placed Liverpool.
“If one day I go to a game and I don’t feel I can win, maybe I don’t go,” Mourinho had said before the match.
“So, normally, against the most difficult opponents, I will try to go with my best team.”
It was pretty clear who he was referring to.
January 20, 2015: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (League Cup)
Thibaut Courtois was in inspired form as Chelsea earned a draw from this first leg of the League Cup semi-final, with Eden Hazard notching an early penalty.
Liverpool finally grabbed an equaliser from Raheem Sterling, but there was a sense that Mourinho had them where he wanted them at the halfway point of the tie.
“It was a proper semi-final and a fair result,” he said. “Liverpool played well but we were in control.”
A week later Chelsea were through to the final thanks to an extra-time winner from Branislav Ivanovic.
October 17, 2016: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
Jurgen Klopp was a year into his job at Liverpool and there was much talk about the exciting, free-flowing football that his side was playing, with plenty of opposition outfits unable to stop them.
The Portuguese’s gameplan almost paid off perfectly, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed Paul Pogba’s cross wide of Loris Karius’ goal.
Despite that, Mourinho loved it.
“Two shots on target with 65% of possession? You have to be critical of Liverpool. It is their problem, not our problem,” he said after the game.
“We controlled the game not just tactically but the emotion of the game. That was probably the quietest Anfield I had and I was expecting it to be the other way.
“The reaction from their crowd was permanent disappointment. People expected us to come here and be really in trouble, which we were not.”
October 14, 2017: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
Just to show that wasn’t a fluke, Mourinho did exactly the same thing the following year.
Liverpool had Mohamed Salah in tow now, but believe it or not there were questions over his finishing as the hosts struggled to break down United, who were indebted to a brilliant save from David de Gea to deny Joel Matip.
“I was waiting for Jurgen to change, I was waiting for him to go more attacking but he kept the three strong midfielders all the time where he was having control because I only had Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic,” said Mourinho, trying hard to sound as though the game didn’t go exactly as he planned it.
December 16, 2018: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United (Premier League)
A third successive goalless draw went out of the window when Sadio Mane fired Liverpool ahead from a brilliant Fabinho pass, but then Jesse Lingard pounced on an error from Alisson to equalise.
In truth that was one of only a few times United attacked with any real spirit in the game, as an under-pressure Mourinho hoped his side would quell wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.
Xherdan Shaqiri proved to be the gamechanger from the bench, scoring twice in the final 17 minutes as a passive United were deservedly beaten and Liverpool went top, 19 points ahead of their rivals.
“[Can we] win the title? Of course not. But we can still finish fourth,” said Mourinho.
“It’s not easy but for sure we are going to finish in the top six.”
They ended up sixth, but Mourinho didn’t.
He was sacked the next day as his suitability for the top end of the Premier League was questioned.
Until now, that is.
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