Wenger says will shake Mou’s hand

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

LON­DON — Arsene Wenger says he will shake hands with Jose Mour­inho be­fore Arse­nal’s game at Manch­ester United tomorrow — and seem­ingly chal­lenged his ri­val to put on a dis­play of en­ter­tain­ing foot­ball.

Wenger’s re­la­tion­ship with Mour­inho was one of the main talk­ing points at the Arse­nal man­ager’s news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day as tomorrow’s match at Old Traf­ford will be their first since the Por­tuguese took over United in the sum­mer. How­ever, Wenger was care­ful not to de­liver any ver­bal barbs after the two feuded fre­quently dur­ing Mour­inho’s two stints as Chelsea man­ager. “Look, I don’t think I have to de­scribe our re­la­tion­ship. He will fight for his team and I will fight for my team and I think that’s com­pletely nor­mal,” Wenger said. When asked if he would shake his ri­val’s hand be­fore the game, the Arse­nal boss added: “Of course. I re­spect the rit­ual that is so im­por­tant in the Premier League.” He did, how­ever, seem to chal­lenge Mour­inho to ditch his de­fen­sive tac­tics, which were crit­i­cised by pun­dits after a dull 0-0 draw at Liver­pool this sea­son. Wenger said fans would be more in­ter­ested in watch­ing an en­ter­tain­ing game than fo­cus­ing on the two man­agers. “What will make the au­di­ence is the qual­ity of the game and we have seen a few games since the start of the sea­son that didn’t re­spond com­pletely to the ex­pec­ta­tion level be­tween two big teams,” Wenger said.

“And I think it’s im­por­tant that it’s a top level game be­cause that will be watched all over the world. And for the rep­u­ta­tion of the Premier League, it’s im­por­tant that the qual­ity of the game is good. That will be down to the play­ers who are on the pitch.”

Satur­day’s game is also a cru­cial test of Arse­nal’s ti­tle cre­den­tials, es­pe­cially given the fact that Wenger has never beaten Mour­inho in a com­pet­i­tive match and the Gun­ners have not won a Premier League game at Old Traf­ford since 2006.

Wenger ad­mit­ted that a vic­tory would “strengthen our be­lief ” but again played down his record against Mour­inho. Arse­nal did beat Mour­inho’s Chelsea in last sea­son’s Com­mu­nity Shield, but Wenger is with­out a win in 14 league and cup games against him.

“I think I have won against ev­ery man­ager in the world dur­ing my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition be­tween two man­agers,” Wenger said. “It’s be­tween two clubs and two teams and I think I can un­der­stand that peo­ple want to cre­ate con­tro­versy, but it’s not that that makes the au­di­ence.”

Arse­nal are six points ahead of United in the Premier League stand­ings and are ar­guably con­sid­ered favourites for Satur­day’s game given the hosts’ many in­jury con­cerns.

They will also be with­out sus­pended striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, but Wenger was quick to point out that it was Mar­cus Rash­ford who doomed the Gun­ners by scor­ing twice in a 3-2 win at Old Traf­ford last sea­son.

“Look, cer­tainly they would pre­fer to have him [Ibrahi­movic] but we have as well play­ers out and let’s not for­get, last year the guy who killed us was Rash­ford,” Wenger said. “So let’s not spec­u­late on any weak­ness of Man United.

“I think if you look well, in 2016 we lost one away game in the whole year and that was at Old Traf­ford. We did not only lose the game, but that’s maybe one of the few away games in the whole year where the per­for­mance was not at the [high­est] level.

“So we want to fo­cus on that and re­spond with a strong per­for­mance and after we have to ac­cept the re­sult. But what will be very im­por­tant for me is that we re­spond with a strong per­for­mance on Satur­day morn­ing.”— ESPNFC.

Jose Mour­inho

Arsene Wenger

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