Arsene Wenger has refused to be drawn into a war of words with old adversary Jose Mourinho after claims the former Chelsea boss once said he wanted to “break his face”.
The Arsenal manager said he was not in “a destructive mode”, was totally focused on Saturday’s Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday and would only talk about football matters when the quote was put to him at Friday’s press conference.
Wenger and Mourinho clashed on several occasions when the Portuguese was in charge of Chelsea, leaving the pair with an acrimonious relationship.
Mourinho, now in charge at Manchester United, is the subject of a new biography serialised in the Daily Mail which details alleged conversations with a football journalist Rob Beasley – including a mention of an angry exchange surrounding Wenger which reportedly ended with Mourinho saying: “I will find him one day outside a football pitch and I will break his face.”
Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s game against Chelsea, Wenger refused to respond to the alleged comment.
“Look, I haven’t read the book and I certainly won’t read it,” he said.
“I cannot comment on that. I talk about football and that’s all I do. I’m not in a destructive mode, ever. I’m more constructive and I cannot comment on that because I’m focused on tomorrow’s game and how we want to play football.
“What is amazing is that has nothing to do with our game tomorrow. I personally am just focused on doing my job well and respecting everybody else.
“I do not want to especially comment because we play Chelsea tomorrow. I have no personal problem with anybody, I respect everybody in our game and I don’t feel I comment a lot on other teams. Sometimes I just say what I think, but that is part of the way I am.”
Games between the London rivals had an extra edge with Wenger and Mourinho in opposite dugouts, but the Gunners boss insists any meeting with Chelsea has always been about the teams rather than the managers.
“Honestly for me it was always just a big game and an important game, and the personal rivalry that you suggest existed stronger before was never, in my head, a concern,” he added.
“What is always important is it’s a big game. Chelsea in the last 10 years had very, very strong teams. You realise that today as well. Before that period, we were always beating them, after they were always the stronger team for a few years.
“Now, it looks like it’s a new era where it’s a bit more balanced again and we feel we are progressing at the moment so we have a good opportunity to grab and to change what I call ‘the inconvenient facts’ of the recent years.”
Asked if everyone will have to wait for Wenger’s autobiography to read his opinion on Mourinho, the Frenchman replied: “I don’t know, I will maybe make a book one day but I am not ready for that yet.”