CLEVELAND – “Bill Must Go!” “Bill Must Go!”

The deafening chant would fill the air inside dingy, old Municipal Stadium as Browns fans turned their frustrations and venom on Cleveland’s young head coach, whose sour personality, overly conservative game plan and lack of fashion sense drove them mad. Bill Belichick was not popular.

“Ya think?” current Browns Coach Eric Mangini deadpanned when reminded of the early days of Belichick’s head coaching career.

Cleveland despised him. And while those chants died down long ago, the animosity lives. It doesn’t help that the coach went on to glory and Super Bowls — after he left Cleveland.

Belichick. Mutter that name to a Browns fan some time and see what happens. It might be wise to duck.

Sure to be dressed in his Sunday-best sweat shirt, Belichick returns to his old neighborhood this week to renew his feud with the city and Mangini as the Patriots (6-1), winners of five straight and survivors of a Randy Moss drama, visit the improved Browns (2-5).

For Belichick, this is where it all began. He coached the Browns from 1991-95, when then-owner Art Modell packed up his club and moved to Baltimore. Belichick’s tenure in Cleveland was defined by one playoff appearance, his decision to dump popular quarterback Bernie Kosar, and, of course, The Move.

During a conference call this week, Belichick was asked his thoughts about coming back. He paused for several seconds.

“Well,” he said, not sounding the least bit nostalgic, “as far as Cleveland itself, it’s a great football town, people are very passionate about football — high school football, college football, professional football. We got great support there. I didn’t take over a very good situation there in ’91. The team got better. Pretty good team in ’94, very competitive. Then in ’95 it wasn’t as good. And we all know what happened after that.”

Yep, Belichick got fired before getting to Baltimore. After a brief stop as an assistant in New York, he got his second head coaching job in 2000 in New England. There, he’s won three Super Bowls, built the Patriots into a powerhouse and is considered among the great minds in NFL history.

The Browns have had two winning seasons, four coaches and 16 starting quarterbacks since 1999. No wonder Belichick is still hated.

Mangini, who has had a highly publicized falling out with Belichick in recent years, lavished praise on his former boss this week. They spent all but one season on the same staff from 1995-2005, forming a friendship that first fractured when Mangini accepted a job in 2006 with the Jets. A year later, Mangini allegedly turned in Belichick to the league office for illegally videotaping signals during the season opener, and “Spygate” split them further.

Found guilty of cheating, Belichick was fined $500,000 by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who slapped a $250,000 penalty on the Patriots and stripped the club of a first-round draft pick, which to Belichick is a little like taking a child.

His relationship with Man-gini hasn’t recovered. It may be beyond repair.

“Never say never,” Mangini said when asked if he and Belichick could be friends again. “Time will tell.”

While Mangini seems open about the possibility of a fresh start, Belichick refused to address their rift this week.

“Right now, it is just trying to get my team ready,” he said on a conference call. “Get the Patriots ready to play the Browns. It’s not really about any personal thing.”

The Browns are coming off a bye week, which slowed their momentum following a stunning win at New Orleans two weeks ago. Rookie Colt McCoy will make his third consecutive start and his first at home, where he has quickly become a football hero.

With the Mangini-Belichick cold war serving as a backdrop, the most anticipated moment today may come after the game when they meet at midfield. In past years, their handshakes and awkward embraces have been scrutinized and analyzed ad nauseam.

Players on both teams tried to avoid the coaches’ contentious relationship, not wanting to guess if the two will ever make up or shake on a truce.

“We don’t worry about that,” Browns tackle Joe Thomas said. “Maybe after the game and you’re watching highlights at home and you laugh about it. It’s not something you think about.

“But I wonder if they will shake hands.”