Arsene Wenger Plays Down Rivalry With Jose Mourinho Ahead Of Man Utd Visit This Weekend
Arsene Wenger says Arsenal’s trip to Manchester United on Saturday is a game “between two clubs, not two managers”.
Wenger’s rivalry with Jose Mourinho has descended into rancour and even physical confrontation down the years, and this weekend marks the pair’s first meeting since the Portuguese took charge at Old Trafford.
The Arsenal boss’ only success against Mourinho came in the 2015 Community Shield, with six draws and eight defeats in the remaining 14 matches.
But Wenger wants the quality on the pitch rather than controversy on the sidelines to characterise a lunchtime kick-off that will be shown around the world.
“I don’t think I have to describe our relationship,” Wenger said at his pre-match press conference. “He will fight for his team and I will fight for mine. That’s completely normal.
“I do not make these games a competition between two managers. I can understand people want to create controversy, but it’s not that that makes the audience.
“What will make the audience is the quality of the game. It’s important it’s a top-level game for the reputation of the Premier League. That will be down to the players on the pitch.”
Asked if he would shake Mourinho’s hand he said with a smile: “Of course. I respect the ritual that is so important in the Premier League.”
United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic this weekend, but Wenger pointed out it was an unknown Marcus Rashford whose double led a depleted home side to victory in the corresponding game last season – a defeat Wenger believes wrecked Arsenal’s title hopes.
“The guy who killed us was Rashford,” he said. “So let’s not speculate on any weakness of Manchester United.
“In 2016 we lost one [Premier League] away game – at Old Trafford. That was the key game for us, and we did not respond with our quality of performance on the day.
“It was one of the few games in the whole year when our performance was not at a level. We want to focus on that, respond and afterwards accept the result. But the quality of performance is important.”