Jose Mourinho is playing down the fact his team need to beat Arsenal today if they want to close the gap on log leaders Manchester United. Photo: Reuters

They have exchanged their fair share of verbal volleys over the years and Jose Mourinho compared his latest clash with old rival Arsene Wenger today to Bjorn Borg taking on John McEnroe.

Mourinho played down suggestions that Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal is a must-win game as they try to close an eight-point gap to leaders Manchester City.

To explain, the United manager brought up the new film about the two tennis greats, saying: ‘I play a game at a time and that is the way to do it.

‘Yesterday I was watching a movie, Borg McEnroe, and Borg’s coach was telling him, “One point at a time — think about just one point”.

‘I tell my players to just think about the game. We don’t think about how many points we are in front of them or how many points behind the leader. It’s just Arsenal. Focus on this game.’

Asked whether he sees himself as McEnroe and Wenger as Borg, Mourinho replied: ‘I love tennis, I don’t play tennis.’

Mourinho’s approach is understandable given his record against the traditional Big Six as United manager.

He heads for the Emirates on a run of four defeats and three draws in seven games away to his main rivals, having conceded nine goals and scored just once — including a 2-0 loss at Arsenal last season, when Wenger recorded his first competitive win over the Portuguese at the 16th attempt.

Arsenal, by contrast, have 12 Premier League victories in a row at home. They have not won 13 straight since 2005.

‘It’s all linked with confidence,’ said Wenger. ‘We are a bit more stable defensively.’

The Frenchman praised United’s physical strength. ‘They look to be a strong team, yes,’ he said.

United’s Nemanja Matic faces a late fitness test and Mourinho, mischievously, smiled when the possibility was raised he will try to sign Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil on a free next summer.

‘No comment,’ he said.


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