The Big Match

Football: Jose Mourinho hints at Arsene Wenger thaw

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger shaking hands before their teams clashed at the Emirates in May last year. Mourinho has urged the Old Trafford crowd to give the Frenchman a courteous reception for his final game at the stadium.
Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger shaking hands before their teams clashed at the Emirates in May last year. Mourinho has urged the Old Trafford crowd to give the Frenchman a courteous reception for his final game at the stadium.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss says he harbours some regrets over his harsh criticism of Frenchman

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has admitted to regrets over "episodes and words" involving him and Arsene Wenger and credited his longtime rival for making Manchester United and him better.

The managers go head-to-head in the Premier League at Old Trafford tomorrow, possibly for the final time, with the Frenchman leaving Arsenal at the end of the season.

Mourinho, while at Chelsea, branded Wenger a "voyeur" and a "specialist in failure". Wenger's responses have included describing Mourinho as "stupid" and "disconnected with reality".

And as recently as October 2014, the two were involved in an ugly touchline row that saw them almost come to blows in a game between Arsenal and Chelsea.

Asked about the fractious relationship, Mourinho told a press conference yesterday: "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(d) in England 2004, Arsenal were the champions and they had 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 is hopeful that United fans, who have not always treated Wenger with respect, would give him a good send-off.

HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS

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.

JOSE MOURINHO, reflecting on his long-running feud with Arsene Wenger.

"I always feel the biggest rivals are our biggest friends because they're the ones that pushed us to the limit," he added.

"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 (and) 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."

The Portuguese, however, could not let the occasion pass without a small dig at the 68-year-old, when he claimed that if United were in the Europa League this season, they would have won the competition.

After Arsenal threw away the lead to draw 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in the semi-final first leg at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, Mourinho's point was clear.

"Last season we won the Europa League and if we played Europa League this year we'd win it too," said the 55-year-old, who is looking to consolidate second place in the Premier League.

 

While Wenger is set to end a 22-year Arsenal stay, Mourinho stressed that goalkeeper David de Gea will not leaving United in the near future.

The 27-year-old Spain international, who is approaching the last year of his contract, has regularly been linked with Real Madrid.

When asked about the prospect of a potential summer departure for de Gea, Mourinho responded: "No chance."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Mourinho hints at Wenger thaw'. Print Edition | Subscribe