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Wenger's keeping the peace with Jose

 

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Outgoing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insists he respects long-term adversary Jose Mourinho and is keen for his Arsenal farewell to go "peacefully" as he prepares for Sunday's trip to Manchester United.

A surprise announcement last week confirmed Wenger will end a spell of over 21 years as Arsenal manager when he steps down at the end of the season.

The 68-year-old has had a number of unsavoury spats with Mourinho since the Portuguese took over at Chelsea in 2004 -with the rivalry between the pair often leading to verbal, and sometimes physical, altercations.

Wenger had not beaten Mourinho in a competitive fixture until a 2-0 win over United towards the end of last season.

While the two have clashed in the past, Mourinho spoke warmly about Wenger following his announcement and has since suggested they could "even be friends in the future".

The Gunners travel to Old Trafford either side of their Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, with the tie finely-poised after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

Wenger was asked about Mourinho's kind words and whether he felt an unlikely friendship could be struck up at some point.

"It depends," he said.

"I respect him of course… you should give me a little bit of peace for my final weeks and not try to push me into another confrontation.

"I want to go peacefully, and with Mourinho now because he is a great manager. I say goodbye to everyone.

"In France we say au revoir which means you might see me again."

Before Mourinho's arrival, Wenger's main feud was with former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Red Devils battled with Arsenal for the major honours in English football but the two men are now friends.

Former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards revealed in his 2017 autobiography that he held talks with Wenger over replacing Ferguson when the Scot originally announced he would retire in 2002.

Ferguson changed his mind and would stay for another 11 years while Wenger, at the time of Edwards' book launch, said Arsenal's "values" meant he would not have taken the job anyway.

He added to those comments when asked ahead of his final trip to Old Trafford if he regretted never managing United: "No, because Arsenal is the love of my life," he said.

"I turned many clubs down to stay here and face the challenge when we built the stadium."

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho regrets the "little negative episodes" with Arsene Wenger over the 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.

"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."

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