Anthony Taylor will have his work cut out Saturday stopping two grown men trading insults.
Taylor is the fourth official at Chelsea vs. Arsenal, whose managers, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, share one common bond: their opinion of each other. In the history of the Premier League it is difficult to recall two managers who so openly dislike each other as much as Mourinho and Wenger. With them, it is the real thing.
The impression is Wenger would prefer to wear an asbestos glove when he shakes hands — assuming he does — with Mourinho in his 1,000th game as Arsenal manager. The Portuguese is very fair, though, with little discrimination as he tends to insult most opponents and match officials, but the Special One saves his special barbs for Wenger.
Mourinho delights in Wenger’s failure to deliver any silverware in almost nine years. Since being appointed Arsenal manager in 1996, Wenger has won three Premier League titles and four F.A. Cups, with his Invincibles unbeaten in the Premier League in 2003-04. His teams have played some of the best football seen in the modern game while his management and expertise in the transfer market effectively paid for the building of the Emirates Stadium.
No trophies, perhaps, but Wenger’s Arsenal has remained competitive while the club is financially sound. Wenger is a team manager and a bank manager.
Mourinho’s style is more pragmatic and the Portuguese has never had to worry about his balancing his clubs’ books. There is no doubting he is a master coach and tactician who virtually guarantees success.
He won two Premier League titles, one F.A. Cup and two League Cups in his first spell at Chelsea from 2004 to 2007. He has also won another 14 trophies at FC Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, including two Champions League winners’ medals.
However, there is no doubt that Mourinho also guarantees to bring the controversy he thrives on, continuing his disciplinary excesses (he was charged by the Football Association this week after entering the field of play at Aston Villa last Saturday) plus his unsurpassed ability to deliver an innuendo-laden insult in his second language. He is such a good coach he does not need to delve into football’s dark arts in his quest to succeed, but that is the nature of the beast.
Earlier this year he said of Wenger: “He is a specialist in failure, I am not. Eight years without a piece of silverware, that is failure. If I did that at Chelsea, I would leave London and not come back.”
Mourinho does not understand why he is always being cast in the role of the bad guy when he goes head-to-head with Wenger, though the suspicion is that it is a role he cultivates and loves.
His nastiest jibe, bordering on slander, came during Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho said: “He’s worried about us, he’s always talking about us. It’s Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea. I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, they have a big telescope to see what happens in other families.”
Wenger’s response was: “He’s out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid.”
The safest bet of the weekend is that there will be more of the same when Mourinho and Wenger lock horns at Stamford Bridge as first meets third.
A win for the Gunners would put them one point behind Chelsea with a game in hand. A home win would open up a seven-point gap between the London heavyweights, so defeat for Arsenal would almost certainly spell the end of its title hopes — as Mourinho would be quick to tell Wenger in his own inimitable way.
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IT SAYS everything about Manchester United’s fall from grace that the 3-0 victory over Olympiakos, whose results in England literally could not be worse — 12 visits, 12 defeats — was greeted with such glee. Had it not been for wasteful Greek finishing and two world-class saves by David de Gea, United would have been staring down the barrel of another embarrassing defeat.
Perhaps it was unrealistic for United, under David Moyes, to have been challenging for the title in his first year, but he was still expected to lead the champions to a higher position than seventh — 18 points behind the leaders and 12 off the pace in the race for a Champions League spot.
Moyes inherited a squad that won the Premier League by an 11-point margin and has added £65 million worth of talent in Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata.
He has been backed publicly and repeatedly by the United owners and fans as he has watched a procession other Premier League managers would be sacked for under-achieving.
Moyes needs to invest in a completely new back four this summer or else United will continue to struggle. But at least against Olympiakos, United gave us a reminder of the form that has largely deserted it over the past seven months.
Robin van Persie’s hat trick was a throwback to last season, but head and shoulders above everyone was Ryan Giggs.
At 40, he had no right to be playing 90 minutes of football at this level as he became the oldest outfield player in Champions League history.
But Giggs will not play at West Ham on Saturday when United needs to win to keep up its hopes of qualifying for the Europa League next season — a sentence no sports journalist dreamed he would be writing.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.