Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger says he is open to making peace with José Mourinho

Amy Lawrence
Arsène Wenger, left, and José Mourinho clash in 2014 when Arsenal played at Chelsea. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Arsène Wenger has admitted he will one day be open to burying the hatchet with José Mourinho. “I am open always in life to everything, for peace,” the Arsenal manager said.

These are strange times for two Premier League managerial symbols, who will meet at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in a relatively modest contest between the division’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 that my team shows up and gives a performance on Sunday and plays well.”

The pressure that has closed in on Arsenal for much of a disappointing 2017 tightened last weekend with their defeat at Tottenham, which leaves Wenger, for the umpteenth time in recent weeks, calling on his team to respond. Arsenal are 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 grasping a Champions League position.

Wenger showed little interest in the notion that Mourinho could field a weakened team 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 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 Wenger the example of United’s decline in the aftermath of Sir 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.”

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.

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