Man United vs Arse­nal

More than just Mour­inho and Wenger

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

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