London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he is prepared to bury the hatchet with old foe Jose Mourinho ahead of Sunday’s home game with Manchester United.
Wenger regularly clashed with Mourinho during the Portuguese’s two stints as Chelsea manager, the rivalry spilling over into a touchline shoving match during an October 2014 game at Stamford Bridge.
The pair resume hostilities at the Emirates Stadium with their sides competing for a place in the Premier League top four.
Asked if peace could be made with United manager Mourinho, Wenger told reporters: “I am open always in life for everything, you know, for peace.
“But what is important when you are a competitor is that you give absolutely everything to win the next game.”
Wenger, who has never beaten Mourinho in the league, was reminded of his relationship with former United manager Alex Ferguson, which shed its initial spikiness to become corial.
“My relationship with Ferguson mellowed, yes. We have respect,” Wenger said.
“I think I try to respect everybody and I do not want to make a case of any person. I think it is important that I focus on my own team, the performance of my team and forget all the rest.”
Arsenal approach the weekend in sixth place in the table, five points below United and six behind Manchester City, with a game in hand on both.
“It just shows that everybody has moved up,” said Wenger, whose side will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
“The number of clubs that can fight at the top is bigger this season and the difference between the teams is smaller. As soon as you are not at your best, you can lose.”
With Sunday’s game sandwiched between the two legs of United’s Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo, Mourinho has indicated he will rest players for the trip to north London.
– Xhaka doubt –
Wenger said that if Arsenal fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League he will follow Mourinho’s lead by making the Europa League a priority.
“I take every competition seriously,” he said during Thursday’s pre-game press conference at Arsenal’s London Colney training base.
“The only thing I always did over the years was to use the League Cup to give chances to young players. We always treated all the other competitions seriously.”
Wenger is still to announce what he will do at the end of the season and has faced calls to stand down from disgruntled supporters.
United’s struggles in the post-Ferguson era have been held up as a warning to fans calling for Wenger to go, but he says his departure could prove to be a good thing.
“It can as well go better from when I leave one day,” said the Frenchman, who has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996.
“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. You want them to be happy.
“Even when you are not there anymore, you want them to be happy.”
Reminded that he had vowed to make an announcement on his future in March or April, Wenger joked: “That means I was wrong!”
He added: “I don’t want to speak about my personal case any more.”
Wenger revealed midfielder Granit Xhaka is likely to miss Sunday’s game after taking a kick to the calf in last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
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