LONDON — Cesc Fabregas says Jose Mourinho has been as influential in his career as Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
Mourinho brought Fabregas to Chelsea from Barcelona in the summer of 2014 and the Spain international has since become a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge, having played a key role in two Premier League title-winning teams.
This season has been tough for Fabregas and Chelsea, but Saturday’s FA Cup final against Mourinho’s United offers the chance of a trophy in what is likely to be Antonio Conte’s final match as head coach.
“I love him,” Fabregas said of Mourinho. “I always say that. I owe him a lot because he brought me here, I will always remember that.
“My first year [in England], Arsene had always treated me like a son, but the closest anyone has been to him was Jose. The way he treated me, the way he made me feel, how he let me be a leader of the team from day one.
“This was fantastic and in all the four years since I joined Chelsea now they will always stay with me. It [this experience] is thanks to him.
“Our history of what happened between us — I played for Arsenal and him [managing] Chelsea, Barcelona and him [managing] with Real Madrid — we were confronting each other, but then we humbled ourselves and started a good relationship.
“This is very nice but hopefully it will not be his day and Chelsea can win.”
United won the last meeting between the two teams at Old Trafford in February, coming from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1. Scott McTominay was detailed to man-mark Eden Hazard that day, but Fabregas warned that expecting Mourinho to adopt the same tactic at Wembley would be dangerous.
“Especially in the last two years, we played many games against them and he has changed the system many times,” Fabregas added. “I am sure he will change something again on Saturday. You can expect that, for sure.
“We just need to prepare our game and focus on ourselves. We don’t need to be thinking too much about what they are going to do and we have to do what we do and see what happens.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.