Head to head for Mourinho, Ferguson

JOSE Mourinho and Alex Ferguson have been given an immediate opportunity to resume their war of words as the new Barclays Premiership season threatens to kick off in explosive fashion.

New Chelsea manager Mourinho and Manchester United boss Ferguson will go head to head at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the campaign on August 14 just six months after their heated Champions League fall-out.

Mourinho, then manager at Porto, insisted Ferguson should apologise for comments made against Vitor Baia after the Scot claimed the veteran goalkeeper had made a meal of a tackle which resulted in the sending-off of Roy Keane in the first leg of their last-16 clash. Mourinho refused to pull his punches, believing Ferguson was upset as United had been "dominated by an opponent...built on maybe 10% of the budget," leaving Ferguson to berate Porto's gamesmanship.

Few will then forget Mourinho's dance of delight down the Old Trafford touchline after Costinha scored a late equaliser in the return to send Porto through to the quarter-final 3-2 on aggregate.

The Premiership's other two new foreign coaches, Liverpool's Rafael Benitez and Jacques Santini at Tottenham, face each other in another intriguing curtain-raiser at White Hart Lane.

Understandably, promoted sides West Brom, Norwich and Crystal Palace are all expected to struggle, and the latter duo open up against one another at Carrow Road.

It is hardly the glamour clash they were expecting, although for Division One champions City it is a case of welcome back to the big time after nine years away as they then face Manchester United, Newcastle and Arsenal in their following three fixtures.

Chief executive Neil Doncaster is hoping Norwich can defy their detractors as he said: "There were few people last year who were saying we had much of a chance of promotion, let alone winning the championship. We were able to prove them wrong and hopefully we will surprise a few people this year as well."

Reigning champions Arsenal, who defied the odds by going through last season undefeated, have the opportunity to extend their streak and set a new record into the bargain.

Nottingham Forest hold the mark for the longest unbeaten sequence in English football 42 matches between November 1977 and December 1978 and Arsenal can beat that if they do not lose at Everton, at home to Middlesbrough and Blackburn, and then at Norwich.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox