Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has jumped to defend his former foe Arsene Wenger in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s stinging criticism of the Arsenal boss.
Despite O’Neill enduring various spats with Wenger during his time as Aston Villa manager, the Derryman says it was ‘in poor taste’ for him to be branded a ‘specialist in failure’ by Mourinho.
The barb from the Chelsea manager was generally accepted to be in relation to Arsenal’s absence of trophies for the past eight seasons. O’Neill, however, speaking on Thursday night at a Question and Answer fundraiser for Limerick FC at Thomond Park, not only dismissed Mourinho’s claim but also accused him of double-standards when it came to recently slating West Ham’s tactics after they’d held Chelsea scoreless.
As Celtic manager, O’Neill got to see for himself how Mourinho’s Porto side wound the clock down in the 2003 UEFA Cup final.
“Arsene Wenger is not a specialist in failure, so those comments were in poor taste; I really thought that was poor taste,” said O’Neill.
“I personally don’t get on with Arsene too well myself but that doesn’t matter. Wenger has been a terrific manager and is certainly not a specialist in failure.
“If Jose ever talks about West Ham wasting time by playing non-football, ask him to have a look at the video of the UEFA Cup final.
“In the last five minutes of extra-time, their goalkeeper Vitor Baia, goes down with an injury to waste time.
“He rolled over and was absolutely not sure what part of the body he should hold onto.
“I was convinced he was going to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. Baia was winking up to them; seriously, it was unbelievable. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a terrific manager. I’ve great respect for him because he’s done it.”
O’Neill revealed an epic moment of sporting history was recreated in Portmarnock last November when the staff assembled for their first assignment against Latvia and Poland. “When Roy came to lay out all the bibs,” joked O’Neill of the shiny garments so infamously late to arrive on the Pacific Island of Saipan in May 2002, I said ‘there you go Roy, any colour you want. Are you happy with that?”
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