Walter Mazzarri has dismissed suggestions he holds a grudge against Jose Mourinho and will offer the Manchester United manager a post-game drink at Watford on Sunday.
Mazzarri coached Sampdoria and Napoli during Mourinho’s successful reign at Inter Milan and the Italian was one of the rivals Mourinho antagonised.
He said of him that “a donkey can work hard but will never become a thoroughbred”, while Mazzarri dismissed him for talking “rubbish, so much rubbish”.
But Mazzarri insists none of that matters on Sunday, and said: “I have a very good relationship with Mourinho. Sometimes the press look at what happens in Italy; the same with (Chelsea’s Antonio) Conte and Mourinho.
“It’s normal when you fight for top positions that it happens but I have a very good relationship; a strong relationship with him. There is professional respect.
“Of course (I’ll invite him for a drink). No problem.”
Mazzarri was also asked of the time Mourinho – who managed Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a year at Inter – accused his Sampdoria team of playing “anti-football”, but he responded: “I don’t remember that.
“It wasn’t like that because Sampdoria was playing very good football. I don’t remember him saying that. There were other things when I was at Napoli but not at Sampdoria.
“Ibrahimovic is the type of player I call ‘eternal’ and ‘immortal’. I have played against him many times; he can make the difference on the pitch.
“We will try as we always do with great players but I also want to add: it’s very important to keep in my mind Manchester United are not just about Ibrahimovic.
“(Wayne) Rooney, (Marouane) Fellaini; the whole squad, all of the players. they have a great squad and we have to be careful.”
Mourinho said on Thursday after the Europa League defeat to Feyenoord that he feared his squad was losing confidence, with the loss in Rotterdam coming after a derby defeat to Manchester City last weekend.
Watford’s confidence is likely building after they recovered from going two goals down at West Ham to secure their first win of the season, but they remain without the injured Stefano Okaka.
Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl also face late fitness tests, and Mazzarri said: “I don’t think (United’s confidence will be low).
“For them to lose to City after a great second half, those are great matches with incredible players and a high level of football. Great teams.”