Jose Mourinho has spoken exclusively to MUTV’s Mark Sullivan, ahead of Manchester United facing Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday. Here’s what the manager had to say about our preparations, the Gunners and a need to focus on the Premier League…
Sunday will be the last time you face Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager. You’ve got an excellent record against him – how much have you enjoyed that rivalry over the years?
“I came to England when he was just finishing to win the title with the Invincibles [team in 2004]. I came in that exact moment when they were a unique team in the history of the Premier League and it was a big fight – probably because of this couple of years, the relation was not pacific. But I always say that you have fights with your big opponents. Then, over the years, I think it was more about the media than the real feelings. I never had bad feelings really – I always respected him as the Arsenal manager and that’s it. Amazing achievements – after Sir Alex [Ferguson] comes Arsene Wenger with his unique career in England but also in world football. I am sad to see him go and I’m sad to just confirm what everyone knows – that this kind of relationship between club and manager and manager and club and in some moments we confuse where starts the club and the manager and vice versa. I think it’s something really beautiful and it’s the envy of all of us because now I don’t think it’s something that is possible anymore, so Sunday it’s the last time he comes here as Arsenal manager. I am sure us as a club and, I hope also the fans, can show that respect for a man that was a Manchester United rival until 2004 – because then the power changed a little bit and the rivals were coming from other directions. But for a decade, it was all about Arsenal and Manchester United.”
Since Wembley and our FA Cup semi-final, how has the week’s work been for you, your staff and the players?
“Yes, good. For the players, better than for me because they had more time off than I did but that’s just the nature of the job and I think they deserve that little rest. The majority of them, after the last match [against Chelsea in the FA Cup final], they will go to their national teams and to the World Cup, so to have a couple of days without football, I think it was nice for them. They come [back] mentally fresh, happy and ready to get that point we need to finish fourth and the seven points we need to finish second [in the Premier League] and ready to go to that final.”
You’ve been in many cup finals as a manager. Is it a case now of putting it to the back of your minds and making sure everyone is focusing on the league games ahead?
“We have to do that! I’m quite happy that we need points because if we didn’t need points, it would probably be more difficult [to focus on league games], probably we just switch off and sometimes when you switch off, you can’t switch on when you need to so maybe it’s better that we need seven points and to play every match in a serious way.”
Are there any changes to your squad from last weekend?
“No, everybody is fine. I have 22 players and only [Sergio] Romero is out as a goalkeeper. But apart from that, everybody is fit to play.”
What have you made of the Gunners’ season?
“The Gunners’ season has been similar to our last season [in 2016/17]. I think when you fight to try to win in Europe, you are a bit punished in the league. Probably, without the ambition to win the Europa League, they would have a few more points and they would be fighting more for the fourth position. But, in the same way we did last season, I think they put everything in the Europa League to try to win it and that’s why they are in the semi-final and still have a second leg to fight for [against Atletico Madrid].”
Goals: Arsenal 1 United 3Video
“It was a great performance, it was a great start, it was a big match. Arsenal were fantastically strong but it was probably David [De Gea]’s best performance and we were very, very clinical. Every time we were going there, we were scoring goals. The only negative thing was Paul [Pogba]’s red card which stopped him from playing in three important matches. But it was one of the good performances and we have done pretty well against every one of the top teams and it’s a question of getting points from this match because we need points.”