Carlo Ancelotti keeps emotions in check. For Carlo Ancelotti, the “pacifist” – as he called himself on Friday – there is no point going to “war” with other managers and no reason for their “mind games” either, as he once bluntly told Jose Mourinho. But the Chelsea manager drew the battle lines ahead of Sunday's title-deciding visit to Manchester United. “I think that, mentally, we can have an advantage. Obviously, Man United hoped they wouldn’t have to play this kind of game against us,” he said. “Now they have to fight again for the title. Maybe two or three weeks ago they didn’t think in this game they’d need to fight so much.”
United’s 15-point lead has, as Sir Alex Ferguson admitted, “evaporated” and Ancelotti has demonstrated again why he is the right manager for Chelsea despite unreasonable pressure from the owners. He knows that even retaining the Premier League will probably not be enough to keep his post.
Ancelotti certainly has the strength — and the competitiveness – and one of the big mistakes the club have made this campaign is to question whether this calmness is, in fact, complacency. To make such an assumption is not to understand the man, his achievements and Ferguson will not underestimate how motivated the Italian and his team will be.
There was steel when Ancelotti brushed aside questions over formations and the vexed issue of whether £50 million Fernando Torres will start at Old Trafford. “The line-up will not be what decides this game,” he said.
“This game will be decided through the courage of the players, the personality, the character. We don’t need to be worried, afraid about this. We have to play at our best. With courage and personality, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 is not important. It’s the same for United, the players are motivated themselves. The problem is the fear: being afraid; to lose energy being too afraid.
“We have to prepare this game like it’s a final. We have to stay more relaxed. There is a lot of pressure around us, but you have to have the skills to stay relaxed, maintain good control of your emotions, not be too afraid or worried.”
One of Ancelotti’s biggest motivational tools will be the fact that everyone had written Chelsea off. “If we are able to win, nothing is decided,” he said. “If they win, they will win the title. For this reason, they have the advantage again. But for us, it’s fantastic to think we can fight for the title. Nobody thought, two months ago, that we’d be able to do this.”
Ancelotti has now fashioned a momentum that was unimaginable not so long ago. Roman Abramovich must realise that this manager deserves more time. “It’s not crazy to think that the club can change,” Ancelotti said. “I’ve tried to do my best. But the club has to check my job. If they consider my job good, I will stay.” In fairness, he maintained the club continued to “give me good support”.
He does not want to feud with his rivals. “I have a very good relationship with the managers here [in England],” he said. “If you have to do a war, you have to be in two, not just one. If one wants to do a war and you don’t want to react, there is no war. A battle. I am a pacifist? Yes.”
That was something Mourinho found out as the two men faced each other, in Milan and then in the Champions League. “Mourinho started mind games and we met and I said, ‘we don’t have to speak through the papers’,” Ancelotti said. “It was the time to stop this. He agreed.”
There will be no special plans to man-mark Wayne Rooney. “We want to play our football, not just control their skills and ability. If we are better, we will win.” United have not lost at home since Chelsea won there a year ago. “They’ve had a fantastic record this season at home,” he said. “But it’s time to win.”