Jose Mourinho regrets flashpoints with Arsene Wenger
The rival managers have clashed numerous times on the touchline over the years.
Jose Mourinho regrets the “little negative episodes” with Arsene Wenger over the years and suspects his Arsenal counterpart feels the same as the old foes prepare to do battle for perhaps the last time.
Manchester United welcome the Gunners to Old Trafford this Sunday as the Frenchman continues his farewell tour ahead of leaving the club he has served for 22 years.
Mourinho spoke of his great respect for Wenger when the Arsenal boss’ imminent departure became public last Friday – quite a change having called him a “specialist in failure” and “voyeur” in years gone by.
They were just two of numerous flashpoints in a testy relationship that has brought a sense of regret.
“There were little things where it would be obviously better without them,” former Chelsea manager Mourinho said.
“You know, some gestures, some words would be obviously better without it. I feel better now without it, no doubts about it.
“But, again, when I arrive in England 2004, Arsenal was the champion and was the famous champion of Invincibles, and I arrive and for the next couple of years it was with them.
“(Dennis) Bergkamp, Thierry (Henry), (Sol) Campbell – amazing team, so, again, thank you very much for that. They pushed us to the limits.
“The two matches we played not at the Emirates but at the amazing old stadium are unforgettable.
“We had big matches, big fights, so thank you so much for that.
“Regret? Little negative episodes, yes I do – and probably he also does.”
Mourinho spoke glowingly of his long-time adversary ahead of Sunday’s match, even if his suggestion that United would win this season’s Europa League could be construed as a dig at Arsenal after Thursday’s semi-final first-leg 1-1 draw at home to 10-man Atletico Madrid.
Wenger will no doubt have the return leg in Spain on his mind as he heads to Old Trafford, where he has been involved in some of the most memorable matches in Premier League history.
“I always feel that the biggest rivals are our biggest friends because they’re the ones that pushed us to the limit,” Mourinho said.
“And I think Manchester United fans, they know that until 2004, for about a decade, it was between Manchester United and Arsenal, it was between Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Mr Wenger.
“I think that these great teams Arsenal had and the fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Manchester United made Manchester United better and better.
“So, I hope they have that feeling, I hope he has a good reaction – or if not good, at least not bad at all – and from us the club, I think 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 on Sunday, 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.