Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said he regrets the “negative episodes” that have marred his relationship with Arsene Wenger ahead of the Frenchman’s final visit as Arsenal manager to Old Trafford on Sunday in the Premier League.
The pair frequently clashed with Mourinho often appearing to relish baiting Wenger, who he has previously referred to as a “voyeur” and “a specialist in failure”.
But on Friday Mourinho told MUTV that he is unhappy with some aspects of his behaviour over their 19 meetings.
“There are little things where it would be obviously be better without them, some gestures, some words would be better without it,” said Mourinho.
The relationship reached a low in 2014 when Wenger pushed Mourinho on the touchline at Stamford Bridge, later apologising and citing provocation for his behaviour.
On Friday Mourinho said many of his antics should be seen in the context of trying to challenge Arsenal’s position as England’s leading team.
“When I arrived in England 2004, Arsene was the champion and the famous ‘Invincibles’, and for the next couple of years was with them.
“(Dennis) Bergkamp, Thierry (Henry), (Sol) Campbell - amazing team. They pushed us to the limits. The two matches we played not at the Emirates but at (the) amazing old stadium (were) unforgettable. We had big matches, big fights, so thank you so much for that. Regrets? Little negative episodes.”
Over the years Old Trafford has shaped Wenger’s career, with the Frenchman claiming his first big win in England there in 1998 and then suffering his biggest humiliation in losing 8-2 to one of Alex Ferguson’s best sides in 2011.
In that context, Sunday’s farewell on which nothing rests promises to be a low-key affair with Arsenal set to field a weakened team ahead of next week’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid.
But Mourinho called on United’s fans to give Wenger a positive reception.
“I hope he has a good reaction, if not good, not bad at all and from our club he is going to feel the respect we have,” said Mourinho.
“Man United fans know that until 2004 for about a decade was between Man United and Arsenal, was between Sir Alex and Mr Wenger and I think that these great teams Arsenal had made Man United better and better.”
Mourinho also said there was “no chance” that keeper David de Gea would be allowed to leave the club in the close season.