Football: Arsenal's Arsene Wenger insists match against Manchester United is not a clash of managers

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (above, right) and his coaching staff face another Premier League game they cannot afford to lose when they host Manchester United on Sunday.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (above, right) and his coaching staff face another Premier League game they cannot afford to lose when they host Manchester United on Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Wenger says Arsenal need to defeat United for slim chance of finishing in top four

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has admitted that he will one day be open to burying the hatchet that has festered for so long with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

"I am open always in life to everything, for peace," the Arsenal manager said yesterday.

These are strange times for two Premier League managerial symbols, due to meet on Sunday in a relatively modest contest between the Premier League's fifth- and sixth-placed teams.

But it would be overstating it to suggest they are ready to share much empathy just yet.

"What is important when you are a competitor is you give absolutely everything to win the next game," Wenger said. "I do not make of it a managers' fight. I want my team to show up and give a performance on Sunday and play well."

FATHERLY LOVE

When you are such a long time at a club like I am, like Ferguson was, it is a little bit like when you have children. Even when you are not there any more, you want them to be happy.

ARSENE WENGER, Gunners manager, on whether he worries about Arsenal's future without him after 20 years at the club.

The pressure that has closed in on Arsenal for much of a disappointing season tightened last weekend with their defeat at Tottenham Hotspur - which leaves Wenger, for the umpteenth time in recent weeks, calling upon his team to respond.

Arsenal sit five points behind United with a game in hand, and six behind Manchester City in fourth, so there is no margin for another setback in terms of their slim hopes of claiming a Champions League position.

Wenger showed little interest in the notion that Mourinho could field a weakened team at the Emirates Stadium because of United's Europa League campaign.

"We focus on our performance," he said. "I don't know what Manchester United will do. We know that they have a massive squad with quality players. No matter who plays, they will have a strong team out.

"Only a top-level performance will get us the win we want. Both teams are in the position where they have to win the game to have a little chance to be in the top four."

It was put to the Frenchman that the example of United's decline in the aftermath of Alex Ferguson's departure might be an example to Arsenal. A worry, perhaps?

"No, it can as well go better from when I leave one day," he mused. "You know, when you are such a long time at a club like I am, like Ferguson was, it is a little bit like when you have children. Even when you are not there any more, you want them to be happy.

"I am not in a position to judge what happened to Man United. I am sure they will come back and fight for the Premier League again. They are in a rebuilding phase and they have quality inside the club and the resources to come back to fight for the Premier League."

Although a Europa League campaign has never been in Wenger's remit, he insists if that is what this difficult season boils down to, it would not have a huge impact on Arsenal's summer recruitment policy and the type of player they identify.

But in the spirit of the club's structural stasis with the future of the manager and so many players in the balance, that appears to be a complicated topic whatever competition they end up in next season.

As has been the case for many weeks, Wenger is looking only at the game in front of him.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline ''Not a clash of managers''. Print Edition | Subscribe