Old foes Mour­inho and Wenger face one fi­nal head-to-head

United man­ager says he re­grets ‘episodes and words’ with Arse­nal man­ager

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Jamie Jack­son

Manch­ester Utd v Arse­nal Old Traf­ford, to­mor­row, 4.30 Live on Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Ul­tra HD

José Mour­inho has ad­mit­ted to re­grets over “episodes and words” in­volv­ing him and Arsène Wenger. Manch­ester United’s man­ager be­lieves his op­po­site num­ber at Arse­nal may feel the same.

The man­agers go head-to-head at Old Traf­ford to­mor­row, pos­si­bly for the fi­nal time, with Wenger stand­ing down at the end of the sea­son.

Mour­inho, while at Chelsea, branded Wenger a “voyeur” and a “spe­cial­ist in fail­ure” and the pair tus­sled on the touch­line in Oc­to­ber 2014 at Stam­ford Bridge. Wenger’s re­sponses have in­cluded de­scrib­ing Mour­inho as “stupid” and “dis­con­nected with re­al­ity”.

Asked about the frac­tious re­la­tion­ship, Mour­inho said: “There are lit­tle things where it would be ob­vi­ously bet­ter with­out them, some ges­tures, some words would be bet­ter with­out it. I feel bet­ter now with­out it, no doubts about it.

Cham­pi­ons

“But when I ar­rive in Eng­land 2004, Arse­nal were the cham­pi­ons and they has been the fa­mous In­vin­ci­bles [the pre­vi­ous sea­son]. And for the next cou­ple of years [the ri­valry] was with them. [Den­nis] Bergkamp, Thierry [Henry], [Sol] Camp­bell, an amaz­ing team, so thank you very much for that – they pushed us to the lim­its. We had big matches, big fights, so thank you so much for that. Re­grets? Lit­tle neg­a­tive episodes, yes, I do. And prob­a­bly he also does.”

Mour­inho stated that Wenger should be given a “not bad” re­cep­tion to­mor­row. “I al­ways feel the big­gest ri­vals are our big­gest friends be­cause they’re the ones that pushed us to the limit,” he said.

“I think Manch­ester United fans know that un­til 2004 for about a decade [the ri­valry] was be­tween Manch­ester United and Arse­nal, was be­tween Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and Mr Wenger.

“Th­ese great teams Arse­nal had fought shoul­der-to-shoul­der with Manch­ester United, made Manch­ester United bet­ter and bet­ter. I hope he has a good re­ac­tion, if not good, not bad at all. And from us, the club, he is go­ing to feel the re­spect we have.”

United are look­ing to do the dou­ble over Arse­nal this sea­son after Mour­inho’s men emerged as 3-1 vic­tors at the Emi­rates Sta­dium in De­cem­ber.

Things would have been dif­fer­ent was it not for David De Gea’s ex­cep­tional dis­play that night – the kind of per­for­mance that un­der­lines just why Real Madrid re­tain in­ter­est. Key­lor Navas’ strug­gles have height­ened spec­u­la­tion about their goal­keep­ing po­si­tion, but Mour­inho sim­ply re­torted “no chance” when the spec­tre of his de­par­ture was brought up.

Strengthen

De Gea will get the chance to strengthen his grip on the Golden Glove to­mor­row, with back-up goal­keeper Ser­gio Romero still out with a knee in­jury sus­tained on in­ter­na­tional duty.

Other than that, Mour­inho has a fully-fit squad as An­to­nio Va­len­cia has over­come a mus­cle com­plaint sus­tained in last week­end’s FA Cup semi-fi­nal win against Tot­ten­ham.

Mour­inho was also clear that he ex­pects more next sea­son from Alexis Sánchez, who will face Arse­nal for the first time since he left for United in Jan­uary.

After strug­gling ini­tially, the Chilean has be­gun to im­press. “Next sea­son after pre-sea­son, after be­ing com­fort­able and adapted, he’s go­ing to be great for us,” Mour­inho said.

Wenger was in good spir­its when asked whether he would say good­bye to Mour­inho on Sun­day. “I will say good­bye to ev­ery­body,” he said with a chuckle. “In France we say ‘au revoir’, which means we might see you again.

“I re­spect him a lot of course. You should give me a lit­tle bit of peace for my fi­nal weeks. Don’t push me into a fi­nal con­fronta­tion. I want to go peace­fully and Mour­inho as well, he’s a great man­ager. I will be fo­cused on winning the game. There have been some great bat­tles in 22 years. If I get a good re­cep­tion I will take it.”

Wenger could make a raft of changes. He has pri­ori­tised the Europa League in re­cent weeks and will want his first-team reg­u­lars fit and raring to go in Spain. Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang, cup-tied in Europe, is avail­able while Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan could fea­ture against his for­mer club but may be one of those rested hav­ing only just re­cov­ered from a knee in­jury.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GARETH COPLEY/GETTY IM­AGES

Arsene Wenger and Jose Mour­inho will come face to face at Old Traf­ford to­mor­row

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