Manchester United vs Arsenal: Arsene Wenger lays down the gauntlet with duty to entertain challenge to Jose Mourinho

While Wenger refused to engage in a war of words with his rivals, he did suggest both teams are required to deliver entertaining, attacking football due to the changing face of the Premier League

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Arsene Wenger pointedly re-iterated that there is a duty to entertain in football, as he prepares to battle his old defensive enemy Jose Mourinho again on Saturday. After years of unpleasantness between the two men, Wenger avoided direct criticism of the Manchester United manager this week.

But he did say that the popularity and reputation of English football demanded an “interesting game” at Old Trafford.

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While Arsenal manager Wenger did not directly engage in the Mourinho topic, he did lay down a challenge to his counterpart, one that the United manager has not always met. He said that given European competition, the future health of English football needed both teams to rise to the occasion.

“Today, the audience is demanding,” Wenger said. “Sky pays a lot of money for football. But it is not the controversy before the game that can attract [people], that is not what creates the audience. The audience is for the quality of the game. Today, the audience tests the game, if the quality is not good, not whether Manchester United or Arsenal win. Afterwards you can contrast the styles, but the game has to be interesting, and it can be with differences in style.”

Last month Manchester United went to Anfield for one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season but produced a poor 0-0. “We have seen a few games since the start of the season that did not respond completely to the expectation level between two big teams,” said Wenger. “I think it is important that it is a top-level game, because it will be watched all over the world. For the reputation of the Premier League, it is important the game is good.”

Later on Saturday, Borussia Dortmund play Bayern Munich, and then Atletico Madrid play Real Madrid. Wenger said that the global fan has access to so much football that the Premier League must be entertaining or it will lose viewers.

“Something that has changed in the last five years is that the audience test the game and the quality of what they see,” Wenger explained. “If it is not good then they go somewhere else because they have five games a day. Even if it is Manchester United vs Arsenal, if the game is not good after 20 minutes they move somewhere else, that is what has changed in the modern game.”

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Wenger was otherwise as respectful as possible of Mourinho, saying that he will shake his hand on Saturday, but that he has never been distracted by Mourinho’s repeated personal criticism of him. 


“In life, everybody is responsible for what he says, and what he does,” Wenger said. “So I am responsible for what I say and what I do. Not what other people say or what they do. I make mistakes in my life, and I regret every one I make, believe me. I would have loved to have a life without any mistakes. But unfortunately I am not even sure that Jesus did that.”