Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri reckons the players at Jose Mourinho’s disposal at Manchester United are the best in the Premier League.
Chelsea’s only defeat this season came in the Community Shield to Manchester City, who lead the Blues and Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the Premier League.
Mourinho, meanwhile, is embattled at United, who are eighth after three losses in the opening eight games.
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“They are a very strong team. Maybe player by player they are the best team in the Premier League,” Sarri said.
“At the moment I think City are better like a team, but player by player they (United) are very, very strong.”
That may be interpreted as implied criticism of Mourinho, but Sarri was not about to emulate his predecessor, Antonio Conte, in igniting a public feud with the former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss.
“We are talking about a coach who has won everything,” said Sarri, who is yet to win a trophy in his management career.
“He has won everywhere. So I think that I have to respect him. But I think, also, that you all have to respect him.”
When asked whether three-time Premier League winner Mourinho was being shown enough respect, Sarri said: “I think, no, at the moment.”
The 59-year-old former Napoli boss suggested it was too early to comment on United’s season to date.
Asked if he was surprised by United’s start, Sarri added: “A little bit, but I think it can happen.
“We are talking about only eight matches. They are doing well in the Champions League, so they have the opportunity to improve in the Premier League. We are talking about two months.”
The Blues have beaten United on all three occasions at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho’s move to United following his December 2015 sacking by Chelsea and his appointment at Old Trafford six months later.
United lost 4-0 on Mourinho’s first return as Conte’s side won the league in the Italian’s first season in charge and claimed 1-0 wins in the FA Cup and the league.
The Blues also beat United in May’s FA Cup final at Wembley in Conte’s last match as boss, before Sarri’s appointment.
With Premier League top scorer Eden Hazard in sparkling form, with seven goals in eight starts, United are expected to try to stop Chelsea from playing.
Sarri, though, expects his team to get better and better to sustain their challenge for a top-four place, and perhaps even the title.
Sarri added: “In the future, we can improve and we need to improve. At the moment, we are giving too many opportunities to the opponents. So we need to improve, I think.”
Sarri has a settled first-choice line-up and Andreas Christensen is among those frustrated at being marginalised, falling behind David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger in the central defensive order.
The Denmark defender’s father says Christensen will seek to leave if he does not feature more regularly by the end of the year, but Sarri gave the comments short shrift.
“The father? I am not interested,” Sarri said.
“In the first part of the season David (Luiz) and Antonio (Rudiger) have played really very well, so it’s not easy to change.
“In our last six matches, Christensen has played in three matches.”
Sarri also dismissed a report that the Blues had lost patience with striker Alvaro Morata.
The Italian added: “In the last month I think Morata has played better. And in the last three days I have seen him very well in training.”