CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho congratulated Arsene Wenger on his 18 years as Arsenal manager but insisted he had no need to apologise for calling him a “specialist in failure” last season.
Mourinho, in an unusually conciliatory mood towards his old adversary, also played down the significance of Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in March and said that he did not think any side could match Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of 2003-04 who went through the Premier League season undefeated.
Neither team has lost in the league so far this season either, with Chelsea topping the table after winning five and drawing one of their opening six matches, while Arsenal are fourth with two wins and four draws.
Mourinho said yesterday that he was looking forward to the match and praised Wenger and his 18 years at the north London club, which he celebrated on Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over Galatasaray in the Champions League.
“It is an amazing achievement. Congratulations to him and the club because it is not just to do with the manager’s quality but also the philosophy of the club, so obviously I congratulate both, Arsenal and Mr Wenger,” said the Stamford Bridge boss, who added that Chelsea’s big win over Arsenal in March would have no significance tomorrow, nor would the fact that he has never been on the losing side against Wenger.
“A result like that happens once every 50 years, not every year,” said Mourinho. “It was not normal because Chelsea and Arsenal matches are usually close, so it was a bad day for Arsenal and an unbelievable day for us.
“But me against Arsene Wenger? I never had the pleasure of playing against him one against one, I’ve never played him at beach soccer, it’s always between Chelsea and Arsenal and Sunday’s game is out of context to the past. What happened in the past, happened in the past.”
There is plenty of baggage between the two, with Mourinho famously calling Wenger a specialist in failure last February.
Mourinho said that, when he made that comment, it was in response to an earlier remark by Wenger saying that the league was “Chelsea’s to lose” and that Mourinho “feared failure”.
Eventually Chelsea did lose out but, yesterday, the Portuguese said he had no need to apologise and the two men had moved on. “I don’t apologise, he didn’t apologise. My feeling is not to go over it – forget it, to move forwards without thinking about what happened. He doesn’t need to apologise, so I don’t need an apology or to apologise. Intelligent football people don’t need that. It’s finished.”
He also said he expected Chelsea to win tomorrow but did not think it would be possible for Chelsea to match Arsenal’s unbeaten league season of just over a decade ago.
“Again, that is something that happens once in a lifetime. “I don’t see in modern football, with the competitiveness of this Premier League, that one team can be champion without a defeat,” he said.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew will continue to fight against his critics and has no intention of quitting amid prolonged and hostile fan reaction.
Newcastle, who face Swansea away today, sit just one point above bottom-of-the-table Burnley with three points and no wins from six games in a horror start to their Premier League campaign.
The 2-2 draw with Hull City at St James’ Park last month was played against a backdrop of deep unrest with many supporters in the 50,000-strong crowd brandishing posters reading “Sack Pardew”.
“I’m a manager that’s thick-skinned. I don’t ignore it and it’s not that it doesn’t penetrate me – it does,” said Pardew, the Premier League’s second longest-serving manager after Wenger. “It makes me want to prove people wrong.”