Chelsea v Arsenal: Jose Mourinho claims rival Arsene Wenger has been 'privileged' to reach 1,000th match

There has been no love lost between the pair over the years

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho paid Arsène Wenger a tribute of sorts, but made clear the pair were not “friends” and suggested that the Arsenal manager is judged far more favourably for similar indiscretions.

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The Chelsea manager was asked whether he was tired of being seen as the villain, with Wenger the hero, and he certainly agreed.

“Look, you see the charges from the last match, and you see I am different than everyone else in the eyes of people. That is obvious. It annoys me. Of course I am [treated differently]. I don’t know why.”

Mourinho was charged this week with misconduct by the Football Association for going onto the pitch during last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa, which he will contest. “For obvious reasons, I don’t accept the charges,” he said.

Saturday’s game will be the first between Mourinho and Wenger since the former called the latter a “specialist in failure”. The Portuguese was asked about that spat and asked for Wenger to be held to account as well. “You have to ask him if he regrets the comments he made. Then I’ll answer you.”

Mourinho contrasted his treatment with his own love for the English game. “Nobody working outside this country defends English football as much as I did during the five years I was working in Italy and Spain,” he said.

“I didn’t say that because I was expecting to come back one day, and wanted nice treatment. That’s not the point. Even after Saturday, I keep saying English referees are very, very good and I have complete trust of them. Even after Saturday. So imagine how I feel in relation to English football. But it’s obvious there is a measure for some and a measure for me. There’s a way where I can feel the differences, all the time.”

Mourinho said he would treat Wenger just as he would any other opposition manager when Arsenal visit Stamford Bridge today, but confirmed they were not especially close. “Not friends,” said Mourinho. “I don’t know your concept of ‘friends’. I don’t know if it is somebody you see three times in a year, and when you see them you see for five minutes or even less.

“To say that I am a friend with a football manager, a ‘friend’ friend, it is people that have moments and share something with me, I was their assistant or they were mine. So Louis van Gaal is my friend, I worked for him for so long. Other managers, you shake hands, it’s two minutes.”

While much of the football world was keen to pay Wenger respect, Mourinho’s own tribute was more ambiguous than most. “The tribute is to say that I believe that any one of us, we would love to have the same privilege with our clubs,” he said of Wenger reaching his 1,000th game. “There are many ways of paying tribute. I love my career and the experiences I’ve had in my career, but he’s in a position where everyone likes to be.”

Mourinho did point out, though, that Wenger’s longevity has included some periods of less success. “I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”

Arsenal are making their best title challenge for six years, which Mourinho attributed to a change in Wenger’s philosophy. “They are different, for better,” he said. “They are a very good defensive team. They are a completely different side, going a bit against their ideas of attacking football.”

This Arsenal team is not as good as the first one Mourinho faced. “The team I met when I came to England in 2004 had everything to be admired, it was fantastic,” he said. “But there is only one Thierry Henry, only one Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Robert Pires. You have to try and build a second one.”