Wenger says Mourinho exit was brutal surprise

LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said today that he was surprised by the departure of his old foe Jose Mourinho from Chelsea, describing the relationship between coach and club as like a marriage.

Wenger said the Portuguese had built a great team with great results and he would be missed in the English Premier League.

Speaking at a news conference at the Arsenal training ground before the league leaders' home game with Derby County on Saturday, Wenger said: ''Like everybody else, I was very surprised.

I am sure something internal has been the cause.'' ''It is like any marriage, you don't know what is going on inside.'' He said he was in his job to take on the best teams and squads and ''the biggest managers'' and of course Mourinho was one of the best.

He added that he was not worried about a similar scenario developing at Arsenal where Russian Alisher Uzmanov is aiming to increase his stake in the club.

Asked about the possibility of a director of football being appointed and perhaps being a threat to his own job, Wenger said: ''We have a way to run things as I love it here. We can appoint a director of football as long as he does what I tell him what to do.'' Wenger said Avram Grant, promoted from director of football at Chelsea to replace Mourinho, would adapt well to English football because he had been at Portsmouth for a year and at Chelsea for three months before taking over.

''He is a very intelligent man with a big knowledge of the game so he will adapt.

Wenger said that he felt he and Mourinho had always been closely matched as coaches.

''I feel we were very close and we have to accept that they beat us a few times and they were better than us a few times in the last three years.'' Asked about Chelsea's immediate future and the possibility they would be weakened by the loss of their charismatic coach, he replied: ''Time will tell.'' REUTERS PDS RK2022

Story first published: Friday, September 21, 2007, 21:04 [IST]
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