Man United vs Arsenal
More than just Mourinho and Wenger
LONDON — Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger have always been the best of enemies.
It’s a long-standing rivalry that dates back to the time when Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager for the first time in 2004.
Mourinho has always managed to get under the skin of Wenger, and the Frenchman has yet to register a competitive win against his side.
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford on Saturday, with Wenger eager to exact revenge over his old foe.
The Gunners haven’t always found the Theatre of Dreams to be a happy stomping ground - an 8-2 mauling in the 2011/12 season and a 6-1 thrashing in the 2000/01 campaign prove a point.
Arguably this season represents an excellent chance for the north London outfit to claim their first Premier League title since 2004. Wenger has sufficiently invested in his squad - Shkodran Mustafi has bolstered the defence, while Granit Xhaka has come to terms with the demands of the Premier League.
However, Manchester United look like a work in progress, a team that labours from one dour performance to the other. Mourinho is still trying to figure out his best team - Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been marginalised, while Paul Pogba has done little to show he is worth the world-record fee of £89m the Red Devils stumped up to bring him back to England.
Mourinho himself, looks like a man dealing with some sort of inner turmoil. He often looks sullen on the touchline and to a certain extent, portrays a manager who has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The criticism of Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling after the duo ruled themselves out of the 3-1 win over Swansea prior to the international break dominated the headlines over the past week. A general pattern has emerged during Mourinho’s career where he has a meltdown in his third season in charge of a club, but it has come much earlier than anticipated.
Past clashes between United and Arsenal have often resulted in titanic tussles. This was certainly the case during the 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, it was Wenger against Sir Alex Ferguson and there was no love lost between the pair.
Of course, Mourinho and Wenger will dominate the pre-match build-up, but there are so many intriguing sub-plots to this match.
How will Wenger set up? Will he be conservative and go for a draw by swamping the midfield? Will Mourinho be more cavalier and try and get United to be more expansive?
United need to start putting a sequence of results together - they currently trail pace-setters Liverpool by eight points in sixth spot.
Under Ferguson, United were notoriously slow starters, but they would often look unstoppable at the turn of the year.
Arsenal meanwhile, have resembled in recent seasons a team with an inferiority complex and lacking the mental nous required to win the title.
Yet it almost feels like the tide is turning in favour of the Gunners. Wenger’s men seem to be in a good place and a team with momentum behind them.
Despite an opening-weekend 4-3 defeat to Liverpool, a comfortable 3-0 victory against Chelsea in September and their strong unbeaten run shows they might have the stamina to last in the title race this time around.
Yes, Mourinho and Wenger haven’t seen eye to eye. The jibe dished out by Mourinho of Wenger being a ‘success in failure’ and the unseemly touchline scuffle at Stamford Bridge a couple of seasons ago will add an extra spice to this fixture.
But United against Arsenal historically should represent much more than that.
It’s not just about where both teams have come from, but where they are heading, and at the moment, Wenger has more to boast about! — Express
JOSE Mourinho (right) and Arsene Wenger will go head-to-head at the weekend.