Search icon


20th Apr 2018

Mourinho proves it is only a game with heartfelt tribute to Wenger

The minds are no longer.

Niall McIntyre

The game is over now.

Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have been bitter rivals for years. Their verbal warfare began soon after the Portuguese arrived to England for the first time in 2004.

The year before that, Wenger was the top dog, Arsenal were the kingpins. His Gunners had just completed an invincible season and the English Premier League at their feet at that time.

A period of domination was a distinct possibility. North London and Wenger would be on top of the pile.

And then a young, cocky Jose Mourinho arrived to Stamford Bridge and he turned it all on its head. He did so on his own terms, he did so ruthlessly and he didn’t care who he upset along the way.

That was Mourinho’s game, still is. He’s prickly, he’s fond of portraying the image that the whole world is against his team and they’re ready to take on the whole world.

Wenger was in his way and Mourinho would go head first into their collisions.

The then Chelsea manager labelled Wenger a voyeur and a specialist in failure and the French man responded by calling him stupid. They traded insults for years and we were always baying for the next instalment even though Mourinho was dominant.

But that was just for the cameras, it was just for the hype train, it was important but it wasn’t really real. We all believed it but that’s only a testament to the power of football, to the power of these two men.

That was football though. And at the end of the day football is just a game. The pair are two of the most successful managers this game has ever seen and there was obviously a respect between them.

It was announced on Friday morning that the face of Arsenal would be leaving his club, and with that the pair’s rivalry would be no longer. At least for now.

Then and only then was when Mourinho dropped his guard. Because Wenger wouldn’t be in the game anymore, he could say what he really feels because there was going to be no footballing consequences.

Everything that has gone before them is irrelevant now because there is always a mutual respect between football people.

When asked about Wenger at his Friday press-conference, Mourinho delivered a touching tribute,

“If he’s happy then I’m happy, if he’s sad then I’m sad. I always wish for the best for my opponents,” he said via the Independent.

“If he’s looking forward to the next chapter then I’m happy. Mr Wenger and Arsenal were often the biggest rivals for United in the Ferguson era. We as a club will show him the respect he deserves.”

“We respect each other even if in some moments it appears we don’t… I hope he doesn’t retire from football.”

Football is football. Life is life. The mind games are no longer.