Wenger's focus on three points, not Mourinho rivalry
FOOTBALL: He tried to play down the battle within the battle, but all reporters wanted to know at Arsene Wenger's press conference was whether he was going to shake hands with Jose Mourinho when their teams clash in an EPL blockbuster tonight.
"Of course. I respect the ritual that is so important in the Premier League,” Wenger replied ahead of Arsenal's clash with Mourinho's Manchester United.
The pair's relationship has been frosty over the years, even getting involved in a push and shove in 2014 when Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea.
But Wenger was adamant the only fighting going on tonight would be between the two teams for the three points.
"I don't think I have to describe our relationship,” he said.
"He will fight for his team and I will fight for mine and that is completely normal.
"It's Arsenal against Man United, you do not consider that you play against the manager. You play against the team.
"It's between two clubs and two teams and I think I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it's not that that makes the audience.”
Wenger is yet to record a win over a team coached by Mourinho, while Arsenal hasn't tasted victory at Old Trafford since 2006.
But Arsenal, six points ahead of United in the standings, could be considered favourites for the clash, especially with the hosts minus suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"Some wins have been decisive at Old Trafford but this would just be strengthening our position in the league for what we want to achieve. We have played only 11 games so I believe that there is no position at the moment with the big clubs that is definite,” Wenger said.
"We are on a very strong run of 16 unbeaten games. We had a little hiccup against Tottenham and we want to restart to win our games again.
"For us it's a very important game because in the league we know we had an opportunity against Tottenham to go top of the league and we want to respond straight away with a positive result.”
Wenger did fire a subtle shot at his rival, however, urging him to ditch his defensive tactics after United's goalless draw with Liverpool earlier this season.
"What will make the audience is the quality of the game and we have seen a few games since the start of the season that didn't respond completely to the expectation level between two big teams,” Wenger said.
"And I think it's important that it's a top-level game because that will be watched all over the world. And for the reputation of the Premier League, it's important that the quality of the game is good. That will be down to the players who are on the pitch.”
Tonight: Man United v Arsenal 10.30pm. Tomorrow: Sunderland v Hull City, Watford v Leicester, Crystal Palace v Man City, Everton v Swansea City, Stoke City v Bournemouth, Southampton v Liverpool 1pm; Tottenham v West Ham 3.30am (times AEST)