United vs. Arsenal rivalry renewed as Wenger seeks to end Mourinho curse

Manchester United vs. Arsenal defined the late '90s in the Premier League and into the new millennium.

The two giants clash on Saturday at Old Trafford, and the encounter has added spice as Jose Mourinho renews his bitter rivalry with Arsene Wenger.

Scott Patterson (Manchester United) and Tom Adams (Arsenal) preview the showdown.

What's at stake here?

Scott Patterson: After the silly points United have already dropped at home against the likes of Stoke and Burnley, they could really do with a result to keep in the race for a top-four finish.

Mourinho's rivalry with Wenger has been long-standing, with the Portuguese coming out on top. Mourinho will be all too aware what will be written about him if he loses this weekend. Saturday's match probably won't be pretty, but Mourinho won't mind as long as he gets the result.

Tom Adams: Arsenal have a very healthy six-point lead over Mourinho's team, so it's important to keep United at arm's length and for Arsenal to try and overtake Liverpool at the top of the table.

More broadly, what we might see is a reboot of one of modern football's great rivalries. The juice went out of it in Sir Alex Ferguson's final years as Arsenal's ambition withered, and David Moyes and Louis van Gaal provided neither the animosity nor the longevity to stoke any passions. Mourinho's appointment at Old Trafford has restored some of that old intensity.

This fixture has never lacked for drama, and it will always mean something -- but now it means even more.

What's Arsenal's problem with Mourinho? What's his problem with them?

SP: Games against Arsenal used to be one of the first ones to look out for, but this fixture has become fairly irrelevant over recent years. Arsenal stopped challenging United for the title in Ferguson's latter years, and since his retirement, United haven't been challenging for much at all. Signing Robin van Persie in 2012, and him winning the league in his first season, helped stoke the fires, but there has been nothing like the importance to this fixture from years gone by, when the title went back and forth between the two clubs.

It's still great to get a win over Wenger's side, though, recalling all the times he got bent out of shape over United's team and manager. If anyone can bring the hatred back to this game, it's Mourinho.

TA: The basic problem with Mourinho is that he has not lost to Wenger in 13 competitive meetings -- in fact, he represents Arsenal's decline as a major force in English football. Arsenal were undefeated league champions when Mourinho was appointed by Chelsea in the summer of 2004, but he took Wenger's title away from him and, fueled by Roman Abramovich's lavish spending, reduced Arsenal to also-ran status.

But it is not just about power; it's about character. This is the man who repeatedly traduces Wenger in public -- the Arsenal boss divides opinion among fans, but he has always been a faithful servant to the club, and Mourinho calling him a "voyeur" and a "specialist in failure" have been cruel taunts that won't be forgotten.

Who has been the better manager in the Premier League: Mourinho or Wenger?

TA: Mourinho has the superior record, with his three titles coming in five full seasons and Wenger's three coming in 19. Mourinho also has a far superior win ratio. But look beyond the numbers and ask: Who has contributed more to English football and the Premier League? Wenger revolutionized aspects of recruitment and fitness after arriving in 1996; Mourinho set a new standard for the relentless pursuit of points and a new level of match preparation.

But only one man has created truly lovable teams, and one, the 2003-04 side, which will echo through the ages thanks to their unbeaten season and the style with which it was accomplished. The numbers back Mourinho; the senses suggest Wenger.

SP: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. I don't remember loving much about Arsenal's 2003-04 side, just like I wasn't too fond of any of Mourinho's Chelsea sides either.

Of the two managers, who will be more satisfied with their career? I'm sure Wenger will argue it is him, thinking about the teams he's built and the style of football they've played. Mourinho spent five and a half seasons at Chelsea and has three league titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup. Wenger has three league titles, no League Cups and six FA Cups from 20 years at Arsenal.

Who has the better chance of winning the league?

SP: Arsenal. But that's what you would expect from a club that has benefited from the consistency of having the same man in charge for so long, being able to play for the future, nurture players in the academy, plan transfers and oversee departures. I remember a decade ago we used to talk about Arsenal as a "club in transition," with them seeking another title win, and as yet, they've never come out of it. Team after team has been built, but that weak mentality, which sees them fall away in February, remains. Still, for any changes that have taken place in north London, none of them can compare to the complete overhaul United have endured.

That said, neither team will win the league this season, and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Mourinho won the title with United before Wenger won it with Arsenal.

TA: Arsenal. They already look a superior team this season. The difference between the two sides is most pronounced in attack, where Arsenal have established a fluid and dangerous formation around Alexis Sanchez, superb in a False No. 9 role, while United look too ponderous when spearheaded by the aging Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is suspended at the weekend.

The past decade tells us that Mourinho is the man to back in terms of winning league trophies -- he has won them in three separate countries since Wenger last lifted one -- but ultimately, Arsenal have better players in a squad that is more highly evolved than the expensively and hastily assembled United collective.

Key Battle

SP: Marcus Rashford vs. Laurent Koscielny

The young striker, 19, will be desperate to make his mark on the game if, as predicted, he's played in his preferred position thanks to Ibrahimovic's suspension. Wenger had been hoping that Koscielny would have been rested on Tuesday by France, but he played the entire second half. If the manager is concerned about how many minutes the defender already has the clock this season, there's the potential for the totally fresh Rashford to take advantage.

TA: Francis Coquelin vs. Paul Pogba

It's a battle between the most famous French midfielder in the world and someone who's never won so much as a single cap for Les Bleus, but Coquelin will fancy his chances of getting the better of his countryman. Pogba has all the star quality, but Coquelin will look to shackle him, and if the £89.3 million man doesn't have the ball, there's not a lot even a man as prodigiously talented as him can do.

Pick one of your players you'd like to see play for the opposition on Saturday and one from the opposition you'd like at your club

SP: Marcos Rojo at Arsenal and Sanchez at United

Having the Chilean's pace on the attack would be brilliant, given how long it takes United to get the ball from one end to the other, while Rojo has all too regularly been a disaster in defense.

TA: Carl Jenkinson at United and Rashford at Arsenal

With Hector Bellerin out due to injury, Jenkinson is the big weak link in the Arsenal team. Rashford is a magnificent talent and character who any club would want.


SP: United 2-1 Arsenal

There's no rational reason to predict a United win here, but football doesn't work with reason. Mourinho to deliver a team talk to get the best out of his players.

TA: United 1-2 Arsenal

The Mourinho hex to be finally banished after 14 attempts as Arsenal's superior quality in attack shows.