Claudio Ranieri is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Jose Mourinho when he takes Fulham to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
The pair go way back in the Premier League, with Mourinho succeeding Ranieri at Chelsea in 2004 – any notion of bad blood couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
“Jose is a fantastic man, very polite,” Ranieri stated. “He was the first to send me a message to say ‘welcome back.’
“He’s a friend. I’ve known him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea, when he moved to Italy. He was very polite with me in every moment.
“He is a very great man, coach, manager, and also is very important for football.”
United currently sit eighth in the Premier League standings, but Ranieri is well aware of the severity of the test that awaits.
“I think Manchester United are getting better,” he said. “For us, it will be difficult. We have to make a perfect performance.
“Manchester United are one of the best teams in the Premier League, also in the Champions League they made a very good job.
“It’s a fantastic team, a fantastic team. We want to make a point there. We know it’s hard but nothing is impossible.
“Every manager when they start the match has a desire to win, but we have great respect for Manchester United.
“Old Trafford, I have very good memories. My first match in the Premier League was United against Chelsea. We were losing 3-1 and in the end it was 3-3. It was a great result for us.”
Ranieri believes that his side has improved every time they’ve taken to the field in his three matches in charge – a trend we’ll be hoping continues at the weekend.
“I think if you observe the three matches, we improved a little more, a little more, a little more,” Ranieri explained. “I know there is a lot more work to do, but we’re in a good way.
“It’s not easy because when you stay at the bottom of the table, the confidence is not 100 per cent.
“I try to give my confidence to my players. Of course, when you have two or three good results, the confidence grows immediately.
“For this reason, we must be satisfied. Three matches, four points – that’s good.”