By Richard Clarke

This is the moment, according to Arsène Wenger.

The Arsenal manager sends out his side at Old Trafford this evening with the intention of not only beating Manchester United in the Champions League Semi-Final first leg but laying down the gauntlet for the rest of the competition.

The Frenchman has taken the Emirates Stadium club as close as anyone to winning Europe’s top trophy – the difference between a winning position and defeat was a mere 13 minutes in 2006.

Since then he has painstakingly put together a new, young side. Tonight he takes them into the cauldron that is Old Trafford well aware that they could change from dark horses to frontrunners in the space of 90 minutes.

“Exactly,” he smiled at Tuesday’s press conference when the question was put to him. “This is the moment we have waited for and we want to show what is needed to take advantage of our first game.

“We have tried to build our team in a different way. It is not better or worse. We have just built a young team because we wanted to develop a special way of playing and a special spirit. When the players had been educated together from the age of 16 to 23 or 24 there is something special we hope will come out at this level of the competition.”

It is a noble pursuit and one Wenger has discussed widely while its seeds have been germinating in the past five years. Eventually, even the Frenchman concedes they have to bear fruit.

“Every title makes you bigger,” he said. “But what makes the size of the club are the people who love it.

“People love success. And the more you win, the more fans you have who love the club. But there is something more than winning trophies. It is the style of play, the ambition you have, the vision and values the club has. It is all around. But it has all to be right and, of course, trophies are part of it.”

Arsenal can take a major step towards another with a solid result tonight.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
29 Apr 2009