Jose Mourinho has noted that he didn’t meet Arsene Wenger after Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal, emphasising that the focus ought to be on the “real rivalry” between the Frenchman and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Wenger saw his final game at Old Trafford as Arsenal boss decided by an injury time Marouane Fellaini header to round off a decidedly flat encounter.
Prior to the game, Ferguson presented Wenger with an award recognising his services to Arsenal in what was an admirable display of class from Man United.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, stressed that Sunday was not about him and Wenger as much as it was about the rivalries the Arsenal manager had with Ferguson at Old Trafford for so many years.
“No [I will not see him], not after the game,” he said.
“Monday off tomorrow, I go to London, he has a big match waiting for him [against Atletico Madrid], but we were [engaging] a little bit before the game and I’m happy the class my club showed towards him.”
“And I am happy that when I told the club I would like Sir Alex to present the award, not me, because Sir Alex was his real rival, especially at Manchester United.
“My story with Mr Wenger in United is just a couple of years and I hope that I play against him again, I hope that can happen if not in the Premier League, who knows. We [may] have still a big match waiting for us.”
Wenger stood there next to Ferguson, once a fierce rival whose name he couldn’t even mention at times and now a firm friend with whom he even has dinner, looking genuinely happy.
He beckoned over Mourinho, purposely standing back to let the pair share the moment, and over the Portuguese came, somewhat reluctantly, before sharing what was almost a hug with Wenger. A few kind words were exchanged between the pair. The whole thing felt genuinely quite heartfelt, as if an era of brutal competition was being looked back on fondly by three wise old sages.
For someone who grew up watching these three spill blood to be the very best in the country, often hitting out at the other two in the process, it was a touching moment – a chance for the watching world to observe the trio together, all unique in the way they brought about success, and recognise how profound their impact on this division has been.