Arsenal vs Manchester United: Arsene Wenger 'avoids' Jose Mourinho's tactic of criticising his own players

The Gunners welcome United to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon

Mark Mann-Bryans
Sunday 07 May 2017 10:32
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Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho in a Premier League match
Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho in a Premier League match

Arsene Wenger says he would always try to avoid publicly criticising his players in the manner Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has this season.

The Gunners welcome United to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon with the once bitter title rivals now battling it out for the outside chance of sneaking into the top four of the Premier League.

Arsenal have lost eight of their last 16 games in all competitions and were sixth in the table on Saturday morning, while Mourinho's Red Devils sit fifth but have more than an eye on the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo on Thursday.

Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford last summer and insisted the title was his priority, but a number of damaging home draws have extinguished that hope.

The Portuguese has criticised a number of his players during his maiden campaign at United, with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial all feeling the public wrath of Mourinho.

It has yielded results with summer signing Mkhitaryan, while Martial is starting to show signs of the precocious talent he had when bursting onto the scene in England, but Shaw continues to struggle.

Despite their poor run of form and the fact a minority of supporters have turned on Wenger, the Frenchman is not planning to follow Mourinho's lead and openly criticise his players.

Arsenal v Man United: Premier League preview

“Ideally you have to be careful with that because you cannot do that in every single game,” he said. “You can do that in extreme situations but it has to be handled carefully because it just makes that stress level worse for them. Top players have a good and objective assessment. They know well where they stand.”

Asked whether such public condemnation can lead a manager to losing the respect of the dressing room, Wenger said: “You cannot always say to the players 'we are all in the same boat and in this together to achieve something' and then you jump out of the boat and say, 'it's your fault now', but when it goes well you take the credit.

“You're in a position where you have to be part of it and fight for them when it doesn't go well...you have to control what you say.”

Wenger has yet to announce whether he will sign a new deal at Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of the current campaign, which will culminate in a third FA Cup final in four years for the club.

A damaging 2-0 loss to neighbours Tottenham last weekend means he will finish beneath Arsenal's main rivals in the table for the first time since he took charge.

He insists his players were left hurting after the defeat at White Hart Lane, a result which means anything other than victory over United will all-but kill off their chances of Champions League football for next season.

“Of course the players have been very hurt by the result and the performance,” he added. “They are focused on the next game and what we have to achieve. We have a cup final to prepare for and we have games until the end of the season to have a chance still to be in the top four, so they are focused.

“You have to use the frustration and transform it into positive energy. That's what you want and that's what we want to see on Sunday.”

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