Photo: Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho got at it on the sidelines (AP)
A never ending beef
It is not surprising that one of the most watched and glamorous sports in the world produced a rivalry with all the elements to make it the key component of a Hollywood movie. It’s not difficult to see why either – in the space of a few years the story saw friends turned into bitter enemies and there is never a 'kiss and make up' to end the rivalry.
Jose ‘Special One’ Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, the Portuguese and the French, have an ongoing feud that has resorted in pettiness and childish acts from both parties on numerous occasions. The two rivals have been at war since the arrival of Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004. Wenger is ripped over Jose's title successes across Europe and their differing football philosophies.
The Manchester United boss, Jose Mourinho, is accused of being jealous of Wenger’s long tenure at Arsenal. The two had a squabble recently when both mangers were invited to a high profile meeting at Uefa’s Headquarters. The meeting was hosted by former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson among others. Jose arrived at the meeting late and the only available seat was the one next to Wenger. When Jose asked if the seat was taken Wenger blurted out yes and prevented Jose from sitting next to him. This childish high school canteen behavior did not rest well with some of the mangers present, but that just goes to show how much the two hate each other. Wenger has seemingly lost the battle in the press conference room and on the pitch. Though Mourinho is at another club, Wenger has still finds himself between ‘a rock and a hard place’.
Since 2008 Arsenal have only beaten Manchester United three times and they have not won a league game at Old Trafford since 2006. Though Jose has changed his managerial job and has had his fair share of problems since joining Manchester United, but the depth of their rivalry remains the same. Football lovers can expect more verbal barbs from Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho this week. He has become something of a nemesis to Arsene Wenger.
Prior to Saturday's lunch time kick off at Old Trafford the two had met eleven times in the Premier League. The 'Special One' has won five and drawn six. This probably is the best chance to give Jose a knockout punch. Wenger has NEVER beaten Mourinho in the Premier League. Wenger has lost on each previous occasion that he has faced a new Manchester United manager in the Premier League (Ferguson in November 1996, Moyes in November 2013 and Van Gaal in November 2014). Arsene Wenger has collected 1.58 points per game in November the worst as a Premier League manager.
Despite the odds against Arsenal they will be going into the game with their tails up like a wild pony in a barn. Arsenal has won over the early-season Emirates doubters with some eye-catching performances and Wenger has beefed up his squad with the likes of Lucas Perez and Granit Xhaka to launch a serious title bid. But a true Gunners fan would not get too excited just yet. Arsenal is the only club in recent times to have gone into the New Year leading the table on two separate occasions and ended up losing out on the title race. They lost to Manchester United in 2013 and Chelsea in 2015, after galloping away in front after the Christmas break.
Will it be the Sanchez show
Arsenal's prolific goal scorer Alexis Sanchez with six goals so far this season could play a pivotal role in Saturday's game. Sanchez scored twice for Chile during the international break and if free-scoring Arsenal finds the net early, Mourinho will be forced to attack and Wenger's side may be able to punish Manchester United through the pockets of holes in the defence. Impressively, Arsenal have yet to concede a header in the Premier League so far this season, nor concede in the opening 15 minutes. However, with Zlatan Ibrahimović banned, United's attackers are unlikely to conduct an aerial assault. If Anthony Martial starts on the left again he could exploit Hector Bellerin's replacement. Wayne Rooney could prove to be a handful for Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi. He has scored 14 goals against Arsenal, the second highest against any one club.
Mourinho has not yet found the right system to accommodate his big summer signings; Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The ‘Man Utd faithfuls’ are hoping he will get it right on Saturday. Many believe that the days are slowly fading when the cocksure swagger of the self- proclaimed ‘Special One’, the unshakable self-belief - magician who sports a mischievous smile could bully everyone else because he believed he is better than them.
They all believe now that they can beat him.
The elegant Frenchman and the feisty Portuguese – it was always an oil and water mix - a Popeye and Brutus encounter and the outcome has been predictable. Mourinho has labelled Wenger a “voyeur” for commenting about Chelsea and he then described him as a “specialist in failure” for falling short of the Premier League title for a dozen years and yet his job has never been under threat. Wenger hit back saying “He’s out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”
Arsenal sits fourth in the tables on 24 points, six points and two places above their rivals and based on current form will start as favourites. This despite the game being played at the Theatre of Dreams. Arsene needs the win for the sake of his ego, Jose needs the win for the sake of his dressing room.
Expect fireworks in a fixture remembered for such incidents as "Pizzagate"!