Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger had never hidden the animosity between them, the height of it being the famous shove of the ‘Special One’ by the Arsenal manager in 2014, when Mourinho was with Chelsea. Since his sack at Stamford Bridge early last season both gladiators will be confronting each other for the first today and on a different ground in an encounter that would definitely reignite their old rivalry
Manchester United go into today’s game at the back of a 3-1 thrashing of Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. Jose Mourinho’s men languish at sixth on the table, six points of Arsenal. Mourinho has not lost a single league game against the Arsenal Manager Arsene, with Wenger’s only victory being the 2015 Community Shield. But there is cause for optimism for Wenger as his team are on a tremendous unbeaten run in the league losing 3-4 to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Emirates back in August in the opening weekend.
However, United’s supremacy in English football has been put under serious threat since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, but their dominance over Arsenal haven’t ceased.
While there are a number of injury concerns for Manchester United, Arsenal has very few injury concerns to deal with.
Manchester United will be without their first defender Chris Smalling owing to an injury, while Eric Bailly is also set to miss out following surgery. Besides the central defenders, United have injury concerns in their midfield as well as forward line as well. Wayne Rooney is reportedly struggling with a swollen knee while Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is down with a calf injury. Luke Shaw is also reported to be having a little bit of niggle while Antonio Valencia has been ruled out with a broken arm. However, Wayne Rooney is expected to be fit for the encounter.
However, Arsenal are in a favourable position as far as injuries to the players are concerned. They had a worry regarding their talismanic midfielder Alexis Sanchez. But Wenger might just sit comfortably owing to the fact that Sanchez put up a stellar show on national duty for Chile scoring two of his team’s three goals against a strong Uruguayan side.
The match may also witness the much anticipated out of the playing turf clash which may take place between Wenger and Mourinho. The duo have a history of some off-field fiascos which might be reignited at Old Trafford.
Wenger has however confirmed he will shake hands with Manchester United manager and moved to deflect attention away from the dugout.
“Of course, I respect the ritual that is so important in the Premier League,” Wenger said in his pre-match press conference when asked if he would shake hands with the United Manager ahead of kick-off. “I won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here. I do not make these games a competition between two managers, it’s between two clubs. It’s not the controversy that makes the audience; it’s the quality of the game. It is a top level game and will be watched all over the world.”
Mourinho famously branded his opposite number a specialist in failure during his second stint as Chelsea boss and the pair clashed on the touchline at Stamford Bridge as their bitter relationship reached boiling point in 2014. “I don’t think I have to describe our relationship. He fights for his team, I fight for mine,” Wenger added.
The pair have met on 11 previous occasions in the Premier League, with the Portuguese having won five of those encounters, while six ended in draws.
However, those were while Mourinho was in charge of Chelsea, so will a change of club have an impact on the ‘Special One’s’ seemingly impregnable hold over the Frenchman?
Of 11 previous meetings between the two in the top flight, the United boss has won five while six ended with the spoils shared. The last time the two sides met was back in February last season. Teen sensation Marcus Rashford scored a brace on his league debut for United as they grabbed all three points in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Gunners.
Meanwhile, 10th placed Southampton host Premier League leaders, Liverpool, in a battle of two high-intensity teams seeking to better their performances from last season. Liverpool are undefeated in all competitions since their 2-0 loss to Burnley on August 20 and the Reds are seemingly improving by the game, outscoring the opposition, most recently demolishing Watford 6-1 at home.
Southampton, conversely, have been a mixed bag this season. They’ve registered some very strong performances, particularly a 1-1 away draw to Manchester City, but they’ve lacked some of their consistency from last year, only managing to win three games this season, losing their last two in succession.
Whilst an away defeat to Liverpool would be a much easier pill to swallow than their shocking 2-1 defeat to Hull in the previous fixture, losing three on the bounce will not sit well with the Saints faithful and Claude Puel will be keen to ensure that his players are focussed for what will almost certainly be one of their toughest games all season.