Old foes Mourinho and Wenger face one final head-to-head
United manager says he regrets ‘episodes and words’ with Arsenal manager
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.
“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.
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.
Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho will come face to face at Old Trafford tomorrow