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I Respect Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Pep

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Zlatan-IbrahimovicIn an iconic image, Mourinho raced across the Camp Nou pitch in celebration, his right hand provocatively raised in the air.

Mourinho’s appointment by Real Madrid that year brought him into regular confrontation with Guardiola.

Mourinho’s first Clasico ended in a humiliating 5-0 defeat and during a sequence of four encounters in two weeks later that season, the rivalry between the men turned ugly.

In the build-up to their Champions League semifinal, Mourinho’s acerbic comments prompted an angry, foul-mouthed response from the usually placid Guardiola.

That year’s Spanish Super Cup witnessed a new low in the relationship between the clubs as Mourinho poked Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye during a touchline shoving match.

Saturday’s meeting in the lunchtime game at Old Trafford will be their first encounter since 2013, when Guardiola’s Bayern Munich edged Mourinho’s Chelsea on penalties in the Uefa Super Cup.

Guardiola has won seven of their 16 encounters to Mourinho’s three.

The presence of the swaggering Zlatan Ibrahimovic in United’s forward line only adds spice to the blend.

Ibrahimovic, who has scored four goals in four games for United since joining from Paris Saint-Germain, has played for both men and has very different opinions about each of them.

Mourinho, he said, was someone he was “basically willing to die for” during their time at Inter, whereas he branded Guardiola, his coach at Barcelona, a “spineless coward”.

But Guardiola says he has “a lot of respect for Zlatan” and Mourinho rubbished suggestions the Swede will be motivated by a desire to right old wrongs.

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“So Zlatan didn’t have the best period of his career (at Barcelona), but that’s fine,” Mourinho said.

“They are not enemies. We are not expecting Zlatan tomorrow to score a goal, run to Pep, sliding on his knees. That’s not going to happen.”