Arsenal manager Unai Emery has said he was “not surprised” when Jose Mourinho was sacked earlier this season, admitting that a team of Manchester United’s stature should be fighting for the title on a regular basis.
Emery, whose Arsenal team will host Mourinho’s former side in the FA Cup fourth-round on Friday night, added that new caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has helped to make United “very dangerous” again.
Mourinho was finally sacked by United in the week before Christmas, with the club languishing in sixth in the Premier League, 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool.
He had spent close to £400m on eleven players during his two and a half seasons at Old Trafford, and Emery has argued that with so many “big players”, the United hierarchy were justified to expect the club to be higher up the table.
When asked whether he was surprised United had decided to sack Mourinho, Emery replied: “I was not surprised because I think they can with normality.
“This team is with big players, who want to win the Premier League. This is normal. They can be in the position to win the league, but the reality is they have lost a lot of points this season.
“But now, they are very dangerous and in a good moment. Now, this team is different. I don’t know why. But this team is different and they are playing with more confidence.”
Friday night’s fourth-round clash is the first time United have ever visited the Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup, with Alexis Sanchez set to return to Arsenal for the first time since departing last year.
Sanchez has not featured in United’s past two matches, but earlier this week Solskjaer confirmed the Chile international was fit to play against his former side.
The 30-year-old has struggled to impress for United since becoming their highest-paid player last winter, scoring just four goals in 32 appearances. However Emery remains a fan and once came close to signing Sanchez during his spell in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.
“He is a very good player and when I was at PSG, we thought he could help him,” Emery said.
“We did not because of the circumstances. We spoke about a lot of players, about a lot of important players, and one was the possibility of Alexis. But it was not possible.”
Some would argue that, given his lackadaisical performances in a United shirt, PSG have dodged a bullet, but Emery believes Sanchez is still a “very good player” and thinks he will steadily improve under Solskjaer.
“I don’t know why his performances or quality is better or worse in these circumstances,” Emery added.
“Now, now, in the last matches, they are playing very, very well with very big performances.
“He’s been starting on the bench after an injury but if he plays Friday, we need to work to stop him because he is a very good player.”
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