Monday 20 November 2017

Wenger fails to take bait as Evra jibe spices up showdown

Jamie Holland

ARSENE WENGER suggested Manchester United defender Patrice Evra has shown a lack of respect by branding Arsenal nothing more than a "training centre" ahead of Monday night's showdown at Old Trafford.

Wenger, however, feels a war of words serves no purpose. "He (Evra) gave you some good stuff to make it all hot before the game," the Arsenal manager said. "We are guided by the way we want to play football and not by the statements of anybody who plays us.

"I believe if you are a big player you always respect your opponent and that is what we try to do."

Asked if Evra had been disrespectful, the Gunners' manager said: "I leave that judgement to you. We do not want to go into any unneeded talking before a game like that. We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation before a game."

On his now seemingly cordial relationship with once bitter rival Ferguson, Wenger observed: "It has changed a little bit by the length of the survival of both managers in their team and there is a respect and understanding of the difficulty of this job. That's maybe what you call 'mellowing'. But what is important is that it's not Ferguson v Wenger, it's Manchester United v Arsenal.

"What is important is how well both teams will play and all the ingredients are there for an exciting game; that's what we want to produce."

Wenger will leave a decision on the fitness of captain Cesc Fabregas, battling to recover from a hamstring problem, until the last moment.

Ferguson, meanwhile, believes that the scheduling of United's back-to-back Premier League clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea will help each club in their attempt to win the Champions League.

With the fixture computer ensuring that Tottenham face Chelsea at White Hart Lane 24 hours before United's Old Trafford clash with Arsenal, all four of England's Champions League participants meet in a potentially pivotal weekend for the title race.

In recent seasons, Ferguson has complained that key fixtures have been scheduled too close to Champions League games, an argument echoed by Rafael Benitez when he was in charge of Liverpool.

But the United manager believes staging such crucial fixtures following the end of the Champions League group stage is to be welcomed.

"Over the years, we always seemed to get one of the top teams before we played a European tie, which I always thought was complete nonsense," he said. "We have never had help from the Premier League in terms of the fixtures relating to our European ventures, but how English teams do in Europe is important to the League.

"It is unusual to be playing both Arsenal and Chelsea in the same week in December. But, hopefully, it is a way of alleviating the problems faced by ourselves and English clubs in Europe. I hope this is a new way forward. It's important for the prestige of our game."

Ferguson expects Rio Ferdinand to overcome a slight hamstring strain to face Arsenal, while Paul Scholes and Patrice Evra have both returned to training following injuries.

United have lost just one of their past nine games against Arsenal in all competitions, but Ferguson accepts that Wenger's current team pose a greater threat than in recent seasons.

Irish Independent

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