'We have to beat United'

With years of rich history and rivalry behind it, Arsenal v Manchester United remains one of the blue riband fixtures in the footballing calendar.

Arsene Wenger admits he always looks forward to these games, but said that while this game may pit fifth against sixth in the Premier League, it remains just as important as ever.

This is what he said:

on whether Sunday’s game is as big as it gets…Of course. The problem before [the north London derby] was that the clarity was if we won all our games, we had a good chance of being in the top four. Now, even winning the games doesn’t guarantee us that]. It’s not in our hands. That’s all we have to achieve.

on whether it will be a lift to beat United…It is a big game. Of course every big game boosts your confidence, but for us more than focusing on the fact it is Manchester United, a big club and a big rivalry over the years, what is important is to have the chance to achieve our target. We have no choice, we have to beat them. on this now being a game between fifth and sixth…It just shows that everybody has moved up and the number of clubs that can fight at the top is bigger this season and the difference between the teams is smaller. As soon as you are not at your best you can lose, we saw over the weekend. We lost at Tottenham but they have had a good season, City played a draw at Middlesbrough and United played a draw against Swansea, that shows as soon as you are not at your best you can drop points. on whether he has sympathy for Mourinho’s hectic fixture schedule…Normally a hectic schedule is what you want and that shows that you are in all the competitions. Overall I must say that if you have no big injuries we are all equipped now in the Premier League to deal with that. What has changed in the Premier League is that if you look at the benches between the teams that are between 10th and 20th, there are still top players on the bench at every single club.

on Jose Mourinho possibly fielding a weaker team…We focus on our performance. I don’t know what Manchester United will do. We know anyway that they have a massive squad with quality players. Only a top-level performance will get us the win we want.

on whether a rotated United side would be an advantage to Arsenal…No, the only advantage we can give ourselves is to focus on ourselves and not speculate on any weakness of Manchester United. No matter who plays, they will have a strong team out.

on whether he relishes playing against Jose Mourinho’s sides…I do not make anything of it. What I want is that my team turns up and plays with a stronger performance than we did on Sunday by responding well.

on United playing defensively at Man City…I don’t know. I believe they will certainly try to be defensively solid but they will try to win the game as well. For them it is like for us - both teams are in the position where they have to win the game to have a little chance to be in the top four.

on whether he worries that what happened to United after Ferguson left could happen to Arsenal…No it can as well go better from when I leave one day. You know, when you are such a long time at a club like I am, like Ferguson was, it is a little bit like when you have children. You want them to be happy. Even when you are not there anymore, you want them to be happy. That is what you want. I am not in a position to judge what happened to Man Utd. I am sure they will come back and fight for the Premier League again. They are in a rebuilding phase and they have quality inside the club and the resources to come back to fight for the Premier League.

on his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson mellowing over time…Mellowed? Yes. We have respect. I think I try to respect everybody and I do not want to make a case of any person. I think it is important that I focus on my own team, the performance of my team and forget all the rest.

on whether that could ever happen with Mourinho…I am open always in life for everything, you know, for peace. But what is important when you are a competitor is that you give absolutely everything to win the next game.


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