Jose Mourinho vs Arsene Wenger: A war of words

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The managers will go head-to-head for the final time in the league this week. Goal looks back at the fierce words they have exchanged over the years

As Jose Mourinho paid respect to Arsene Wenger after his imminent Arsenal exit was announced, it seemed to confirm a recent shift in the relationship between the managers.

The Manchester United boss spoke of his "respect" for his Gunners counterpart  when asked for his reaction to the news the Frenchman's reign in north London will come to an end at the end of the season.

At first, it sounded like a rare moment of diplomacy from Mourinho as one of his favourite verbal sparring partners bows out of the Premier League. However, having heard Wenger admit his "support" for the Portuguese and parise his team earlier this season, it could be that the animosity that has separated them over the years has died down.

United host Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday in a game that will see the legendary managers go head-to-head on the field for the last time.

Here, Goal looks at the finest moments off of it.

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    Wenger's whataboutery

    Facing criticism for fielding an all-foreign team against Crystal Palace in February 2005, Wenger hit back with a dig at Chelsea's policy under Mourinho: "Take what Arsenal and Chelsea have won in the past eight years. I go with reality, with the football we play and the challenge we have ahead. I don't see especially that Chelsea play more English players than we do. Who have they produced, homegrown? Just one, John Terry."
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    ‘Mourinho is a danger!’

    The following August, a more subtle hint was directed towards coaches of the Portuguese’s ilk, when Wenger took a stand against more defensive approaches in football.

    "I know we live in a world where we have only winners and losers, but once a sport encourages teams who refuse to take the initiative, the sport is in danger."

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    Wenger The Voyeur?

    Two months later, Mourinho sniped back, suggesting Wenger had a rather ominous obsession with the Blues.

    “Wenger has a real problem with us and I think he is what you call in England ‘a voyeur’. He is someone who likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. Wenger must be one of them – it is a sickness. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea.”

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    That’s stupid!

    The Frenchman was irked by such a suggestion and hit out at Mourinho as "stupid", even considering taking legal action against him.

    "I find it out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. I will see if I take any action. I don't know yet but I will leave that door open. I don't know what I said that was malicious.

    “When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”

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    Mourinho’s dossier

    Mourinho did not let the issue die there, but revealed that he, too, has a bit of a strange fascination with the comments his rival makes.

    "We have a file of quotes from Mr Wenger about Chelsea in the last 12 months - it is not a file of five pages,” he said in November that year. “It is a file of 120 pages, so we have a very strong reaction. My objective is that it is enough. He has talked enough about us.

    "He has said some very strange things about Chelsea Football Club. We have a very strong answer. I accept his next answer being strong but it is time to stop because if he doesn't stop, we are there for the fight."

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    Wenger’s challenge

    Irritated by Mourinho pointing out that Wenger has not won the Champions League, Wenger insisted there is more to a great manager than lifting the trophy.

    “Plenty of managers have won the Champions League who will not be considered great managers," he said in February 2007. "What is important is that you look at their careers in 10, 15 or 20 years. What kind of quality have you brought through in your work and on how consistent a level have you done it? If you would like to compare every manager you give each one the same amount of resources and say: 'you have that for five years'. After five years you see who has done the most.”

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    Mourinho slams Wenger's policy

    Mourinho then took a stab at Wenger's transfer strategy in his book: "Unlike Arsenal, we sought success and tried to build it through a concept of the game using English players."

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    Wenger's stats

    The following April, Mourinho, several months after leaving Chelsea, felt the need to suggest Wenger is over-rated.

    "The English like statistics a lot, numbers, especially number 100. It's a fascinating number, for example games as manager in the Premier League," he wrote in his book 'Born Winner'. "Do they know that the percentage of wins by Arsene Wenger in the English league is 50 per cent?"

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    Mourinho's 'horrible' tactics

    After seeing Real Madrid stars Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos intentionally booked during a Champions League game to prevent them missing a big game in April 2013, Wenger felt disgusted by the club's cynical tactics.

    "You never say it doesn’t cross your mind but when you see how it looks on television it is the best demonstration to think: 'Never do that again'.

    "It looks, frankly, horrible. It’s a pity to see that from a big club."

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    Mind your own business, Arsene

    Mourinho expected Wenger to chime in as Chelsea sold Juan Mata to Manchester United and when he criticised the Blues for the move, the Portuguese replied: "Wenger complaining is normal because he always does. Normally he should be happy that Chelsea sold a player like Juan Mata. 

    "But I think it's also a bit of his nature. We have to accept the way he is. But when he says that this is not fair, I think what is not fair is that his team always has the best days to play. Always. Always."

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    Fear of failure, or specialist?

    After Wenger suggested coaches like Mourinho tend to talk down their side's chances because they are scared to fail, Mourinho lashed out at him.

    "If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn't fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that's failure," he said. "He's a specialist in failure. If I do that at Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don't come back."

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    The touchline tussle

    Wenger pushed Mourinho in a heated clash at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea won 2-0, but admitted: 

    “Looking back, I think I shouldn’t have reacted as I did and it is not at all the way I behave on a football pitch..

    "I always regret the slightest sign of violence and I apologise. But it is also part of these matches where everything is over-charged and there were problems before the match."

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    Mourinho highlights Wenger's privilege

    Mourinho was not willing to let the issue die there, however, as he criticised Wenger again.

    "He can speak about referees, push people in the technical areas, can cry in the morning and afternoon, nothing happens.

    "Cannot achieve, keep his job, can still be the king, it is privilege.

    "In this country only one manager is not under pressure, every other manager is under pressure."

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    Get used to it, Jose!

    When Mourinho complained that his Manchester United team cannot compete with the riches of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City Wenger welcomed him to his world, having been suffering the same issue for years.

    “I have been in that position for 21 years, so I will not start to complain now,” Wenger said. “There is always one team, sometimes four, who were richer than I was, so I learned to cope with that and to deal with that.

    “I think what is most important is you deal with your own situation as well as you can and, yes, Manchester City are richer than us; yes, Chelsea are richer than us and Manchester United are richer than us but I still believe we have to find a way to be successful.”

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    Wenger preparing Arsenal for failure

    When Wenger criticised Mourinho for his short-term jobs in 2017, the Portuguese said his strategy is better than staying beyond your welcome, aiming a dig back at the Gunners boss.

    "If people say that because I move from club to club, they're right, but I don't think I am [a short-term manager]," he said.

    "I prepare clubs for success. I think I prepare clubs in a way where, when I leave, the new manager arrives at a top club. And that is not short term, even if you leave.

    "If you're in a club one or two years – or any job – if you leave a structure to be even more successful without you than with you, that's not short term. That's long term.

    “You can be there 10 or 20 years and, when you leave the club, it's ready for failure."