Arsenal's Arsene Wenger: I'll shake hands with Man Utd's Jose Mourinho
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says he will shake hands with Jose Mourinho before Arsenal's game at Manchester United on Saturday -- and seemingly challenged his rival to put on a display of entertaining football.
Wenger's relationship with Mourinho was one of the main talking points at the Arsenal manager's news conference on Thursday as Saturday's match at Old Trafford will be their first since the Portuguese took over United in the summer.
However, Wenger was careful not to deliver any verbal barbs after the two feuded frequently during Mourinho's two stints as Chelsea manager.
"Look, I don't think I have to describe our relationship. He will fight for his team and I will fight for my team and I think that's completely normal," Wenger said.
When asked if he would shake his rival's hand before the game, the Arsenal boss added: "Of course. I respect the ritual that is so important in the Premier League."
He did, however, seem to challenge Mourinho to ditch his defensive tactics, which were criticised by pundits after a dull 0-0 draw at Liverpool this season.
Wenger said fans would be more interested in watching an entertaining game than focusing on the two managers.
"What will make the audience is the quality of the game and we have seen a few games since the start of the season that didn't respond completely to the expectation level between two big teams," Wenger said.
"And I think it's important that it's a top level game because that will be watched all over the world. And for the reputation of the Premier League, it's important that the quality of the game is good. That will be down to the players who are on the pitch."
Saturday's game is also a crucial test of Arsenal's title credentials, especially given the fact that Wenger has never beaten Mourinho in a competitive match and the Gunners have not won a Premier League game at Old Trafford since 2006.
Wenger admitted that a victory would "strengthen our belief" but again played down his record against Mourinho. Arsenal did beat Mourinho's Chelsea in last season's Community Shield, but Wenger is without a win in 14 league and cup games against him.
"I think I have won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition between two managers," Wenger said. "It's between two clubs and two teams and I think I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it's not that that makes the audience."
Arsenal are six points ahead of United in the Premier League standings and are arguably considered favourites for Saturday's game given the hosts' many injury concerns.
They will also be without suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Wenger was quick to point out that it was Marcus Rashford who doomed the Gunners by scoring twice in a 3-2 win at Old Trafford last season.
"Look, certainly they would prefer to have him [Ibrahimovic] but we have as well players out and let's not forget, last year the guy who killed us was Rashford," Wenger said. "So let's not speculate on any weakness of Man United.
"I think if you look well, in 2016 we lost one away game in the whole year and that was at Old Trafford. We did not only lose the game, but that's maybe one of the few away games in the whole year where the performance was not at the [highest] level.
"So we want to focus on that and respond with a strong performance and after we have to accept the result. But what will be very important for me is that we respond with a strong performance on Saturday morning."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.