Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will attempt to kick off an “amazing” few weeks in style when former club Chelsea arrive at Old Trafford this weekend.
As if facing the club he led to three Premier League crowns across two spells was not enough, the Portuguese’s public spat with current Blues manager Antonio Conte has only heightened interest in Sunday’s Premier League encounter.
It is the first of five matches at Old Trafford between now and the end of March – a run of home games that includes Liverpool in the league, Sevilla in the Champions League last-16 and Brighton in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
“I think the next few weeks at Old Trafford will be amazing,” United boss Mourinho said.
“Two big matches against two direct rivals in the Premier League, two knockout matches that, if things go well, can leave us in the quarter-final of the Champions League and the semi-final of the FA Cup.
“Sometimes we have periods with three, four consecutive away matches but this time we have four matches at home, with Crystal Palace away in between, but four big matches at Old Trafford.”
It looks a make-or-break month for a United side under the spotlight as Chelsea arrive on Sunday.
Mourinho is having to deal with a variety of injury complaints heading into the match and there continues to be questions over club-record signing Paul Pogba’s form and happiness.
Romelu Lukaku is another big-money signing under scrutiny.
Last weekend’s match-winning FA Cup double at Huddersfield was impressive, yet his inability to score in any of his six Premier League matches against current top-six sides this season fuels long-standing questions about the striker.
Lukaku has failed to score in all 17 Premier League games involving Sunday’s opponents – including 10 league appearances made in a Chelsea shirt – but Mourinho is unconcerned.
“I don’t know (why he has not scored against top-six sides) but I’m not worried,” Mourinho said.
“Twenty-one goals is not bad at all and I don’t measure the players’ performances the same way you do.
“I have other points of analysis and I’m happy with Romelu’s performance even when he doesn’t score goals.”
Lukaku had looked set to re-join Chelsea in the summer, only for United to swoop in to sign him from Everton at the start of their pre-season tour to America.
That training camp in Los Angeles feels just like yesterday for Mourinho, but the United boss is ready for the pressure and fixtures to pile up.
“Time flies,” Mourinho told MUTV. “It feels like two days ago that we were in Los Angeles for pre-season and now we’re almost in March.
“March, April and May can be really busy and going far in the FA Cup creates you problems.
“We now play Brighton when we were supposed to play West Ham and we don’t know when we’ll play West Ham.
“If we play the semi-final of the FA Cup, I don’t know when that will be so it can be really busy and complicated.”