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Sunday 23 July 2017

Wenger ready to make peace with old rival Mourinho

Arsene Wenger with Arsenal's Danny Welbeck. Photo: PA
Arsene Wenger with Arsenal's Danny Welbeck. Photo: PA

Arsene Wenger says he is ready to make peace with long-term rival Jose Mourinho.

The Arsenal boss has never beaten Mourinho in the Premier League but will be hoping to strike lucky at the 13th attempt when the Portuguese takes his Manchester United side to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The pair have clashed both verbally and physically since Mourinho's arrival at Chelsea in 2004 and their touchline antics have long-been a sideshow to any meeting of their respective teams.

Sunday's game is arguably bigger for Wenger, who has still yet to announce whether he will sign a new deal to remain at Arsenal beyond the end of the current season.

The 67-year-old has guided Arsenal to a third FA Cup final in four years but that has done little to curtail calls for his exit, especially after Sunday's 2-0 north London derby defeat at Tottenham means Spurs will finish above their neighbours for the first time since 1995.

Mourinho visits either side of a Europa League semi-final clash with Celta Vigo and, despite United still harbouring their own ambitions of a top-four finish, he said on Wednesday he may rest some of his key players on Sunday.

But away from the pitch, Wenger is prepared to call a truce with Mourinho, in a similar way as he did with Sir Alex Ferguson when the pair were fighting for titles.

Asked whether his relationship with the former United boss mellowed over time, Wenger replied: "Mellowed? Yes. We have respect.

"I think I try to respect everybody and I do not want to make a case of any person. I think it is important that I focus on my own team, the performance of my team and forget all the rest."

When questioned on whether amicable ground could be found with Mourinho, he said: "I am open always in life for everything, you know, for peace.

"But what is important when you are a competitor is that you give absolutely everything to win the next game."

During the Wenger and Ferguson rivalry, meetings between Arsenal and United would often dictate the destination of the title.

Heading into this weekend, Arsenal are sixth with their visitors just a place above them in fifth, with Wenger admitting other clubs have now caught up with the duo.

"It just shows that everybody has moved up," he said. "The number of clubs that can fight at the top is bigger this season and the difference between the teams is smaller. As soon as you are not at your best you can lose."

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