The last time the pair met they ended up face to face screaming abuse at each other in the technical area, as Chelsea sent United tumbling out of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge last month, with Ander Herrera sent off in a roughhouse clash.
After that game Mourinho, abused by the Chelsea fans who used to adore him, said “Judas is still No1.”
The Special One, who accused Conte of trying to humiliate him after Chelsea’s 4-0 win in the league back in October, has also jibed that his old team now play “defensive” football under the Italian.
But Conte, whose lead at the top would be cut to four points if Chelsea lose at Old Trafford and Tottenham beat Bournemouth today, said: “Many coaches try to manipulate ideas and try to put thoughts to you, to move things the way they want.
Antonio Conte is not interested in Manchester United's mind games
“But for me it’s not important. It’s important to continue to work on our football.
“Two teams are in sporting conflict during the game. It’s not a friendly game. Both teams want the three points and you both fight to try to win.
“I don’t like the tension on the touchline. I prefer to be focused on my team. But sometimes it can happen. It’s normal for me and other coaches to have this situation. “But if you ask me if I like it or not – I don’t. I’d prefer to be focused on my team and the game, so I can find the right solution if my team is in difficulty.
“This is what Mourinho does. But every coach has to work to prepare his team – tactically, physically, and psychologically – because in these types of games, it’s important to prepare your team to face every situation.” But Mourinho says he will remain cold-eyed and feel no emotion when United bid to avoid a hat-trick of defeats against his former club .
He said: “You say that word emotion. For me, it is just a game. One more game. No difference for me, not at all.”
Manchester United v Chelsea combined XI Wed, April 12, 2017
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Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have a frosty relationship
Asked about Chelsea’s qualities, Mourinho responded with what smacked of a back-handed compliment, suggesting that a key factor in their championship charge has been the physical freshness of Conte’s squad because they have not had to play European football this season.
Chelsea have played only 38 games in all competitions compared to United’s 52.
And he also said their success is based on a counter-attacking game based on a solid defence – the very tactics he used to such good effect when he was in charge of Chelsea in his first spell and then Inter Milan.
“First of all, some guys are fresh, some guys are tired,” he said. “That’s very important in football.
Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United have had it tougher than Chelsea
“But, for some reason, they are top of the league. It’s not just because they are fresh. It’s also because they have individual quality and they have collective quality.
“They have a certain style of play, they stick to it, they do it very well. Not every team defends with 11 players, and they defend with 11 players.
“Not every team is so objective in their counter attacks. They are very objective in the counter-attack and they have individual players out of the context of the game that can also resolve the problems. So they are a very strong team.”
Mourinho’s injury problems have not improved. He confirmed that defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will not be fit to return until “mid-May” while midfielder Juan Mata will not be back until “end of May” which leaves him touch and go to play in the Europa League final, should United get there.