Saturday 19 January 2019

'I don't know if he will be at Manchester United next season' - Arsene Wenger's parting shot to Jose Mourinho

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Rory Dollard

Arsene Wenger played down the prospect of meeting Jose Mourinho again in the immediate future due to his apparent uncertainty over his next destination and - mischievously - Mourinho's.

Wenger's long and storied rivalry with United looked to be ending with a point apiece after former Red Devil Henrikh Mkhitaryan cancelled out Paul Pogba's opener.

That would have represented a minor triumph for the given the much-changed and inexperienced Gunners XI he sent out, with more than half an eye on Thursday's Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid.

But there was a sting in the tail, Marouane Fellaini climbing off the bench and flicking home a match-winning header in stoppage time.

Mourinho has had plenty of his own tussles with Wenger over the years but on a day where United paid generous tribute to him through Alex Ferguson's pre-match presentation, their current boss held out hope of further battles beyond Arsenal.

"I don't know if honestly, first of all, he will be at Manchester United next year, certainly," said Wenger.

"I don't know where I will be. At the moment I am in a bit of unknown territory, I don't knew where I go from here or do I take a break? I would be surprised if I meet him next year."

Wenger would be forgiven for indulging a little nostalgia as he revisited the scene of so many past skirmishes, triumphs and travails but even on a day where he received a pre-match presentation from Alex Ferguson and an unusually cordial welcome from the home support, he stayed focused on the outcome.

"The players are destroyed because they gave everything and were caught in the final minute," he said.

"I am programmed to try and win football games, I don't think that changes. But I am thankful to Manchester United because they had a nice gesture. It is the first time I get a trophy before a game. It is very classy from them."

As for the acclaim offered in a stadium he has often entered as public enemy number one, he mused: "Once you are not a danger any more, people love you."

Wenger revealed goalkeeper David Ospina (ribs), Alex Iwobi (hamstring) and Mkhitaryan (knee) all received knocks during the match, while United saw striker Romelu Lukaku leave the field with a foot injury.

With an FA Cup final against Chelsea on the horizon, not to mention the World Cup, there were understandable concerns over the Belgian.

"To be out is not OK, he wants to play all the time, he's never tired," said Mourinho.

"To say immediately 'change' is because he couldn't play but three more weeks until the final... I don't know yet.

"When a player is injured I'm not immediately going for good or bad news."

On the likelihood of finishing as runners-up to neighbours Manchester City, Mourinho added: "I think if (we) finish second it is the first time for five years, so since Sir Alex left.

"OK, progress, progress at many levels but not enough to be first instead of second and not enough to win the Champions League instead of the Europa League."

Jose Mourinho hopes to cross swords with Arsene Wenger again after his Manchester United side condemned the Frenchman to a galling defeat on his last visit to Old Trafford as Arsenal boss.

"I hope that I play against him again, I hope that can happen," he said.

"If not in the Premier League, who knows, we still have a big match waiting for us."

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