By Sam McGuire, Football Whispers
Jose Mourinho arrived in the Premier League when it was at it’s most competitive. Back in 2004, English clubs not only had some of the best players in the world, they also had the best managers, too.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were joined by Rafael Benitez and Mourinho as what soon became known as the traditional big four began to take shape. It brought a new dynamic to the league with all four looking to best the other three.
While Ferguson and Benitez traded wins with Mourinho, the Portuguese manager always seemed to be able to avoid defeat against Wenger. He’s lost just one of his 13 matches against Arsenal.
Mourinho, sensing his psychological advantage over the Frenchman, has kept his foot on Wenger’s throat ever since.
It may come across as though the Manchester United manager is waiting for Arsenal to finally part ways with their 67-year-old boss so his gloating can begin. However, we’ve asked our friends over at Football Whispers to look at why Wenger is the Batman to Mourinho’s The Joker, and how the former Monaco manager being hounded out at Arsenal would be a disaster for the self proclaimed ‘Special One’.
“You can’t kill me without becoming like me. I can’t kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me. Isn’t it ironic?!” – The Joker
Rivalries in football aren’t as common as they once were. It was the hype before the main event. Managers used the media to have digs at their opposite number and mind games were all part of the dance.
Some were lucky to find the perfect mix and it helped elevate both people in terms of status and reputation. They go hand-in-hand whether onlookers like to admit it or not. They may not be dependent or reliant on one another but having that sort of rivalry certainly aids their evolution.
Wenger and Mourinho have built legacies in their own right but their rivalry added an extra edge to proceedings. It’s the one constant over the past decade. Benitez moved abroad and Ferguson retired.
In one corner you had Frenchman, the footballing purist who wanted not only to win, but to do so with style. He wanted to walk the ball into the back of the net. Opposing him was the two-time Chelsea boss, a man determined to win no matter what the cost was.
It was good versus evil and the media had their rivalry.
Neutrals bought into it more than most because it didn’t stick to the script. Mourinho continuously triumphed over ‘the specialist in failure’, and the Arsenal manager refused to change his ways to get a result. He refused to adopt a more pragmatic approach like Mourinho.
“Kill you? I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No. No. No! No you – you complete me” – The Joker
In a recent interview with The Times, Mourinho took the opportunity to once again have a dig at Wenger and reignite the feud, despite the two teams not going head-to-head until December.
When asked about the suggestions he’s nothing more than a short-term manager he explained his thinking: “If people say that because I move from club to club, they’re right, but I don’t think I am [short-termist]. I prepare clubs for success.
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“I think I prepare clubs in a way where, when I leave, the new manager arrives at a top club. And that is not short-term even if you leave. If you’re in a club one or two years — or any job — if you leave a structure to be even more successful without you than with you, that’s not short-term. That’s long-term. That’s long-term.”
He couldn’t pass up the chance to have a subtle dig at Wenger: “What is the opposite of success? Failure. One who leaves the club in conditions for failure. That is a short-term manager. You can be there ten or 20 years and when you leave the club, it’s ready for failure.”
It was unprovoked but Mourinho is eager to get the rivalry back in the headlines. Why? Perhaps because Wenger is now the only link back to the ‘Special One’ ruse. Without the Frenchman being in the game, Mourinho’s air of invincibility is a thing of the past. In a twisted way, the United manager needs his nemesis in order to stay relevant.