Manchester United v Arsenal

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Interview

Wenger - It will be strange to face Alexis

Arsène Wenger and Alexis

Arsene Wenger admits it will be "strange" to come up against Alexis Sanchez in Sunday's game at Manchester United.

The Chile international spent three-and-a-half years with us before moving to Old Trafford at the end of the January transfer window - and the Arsenal manager says we had "no other choice" but to sell.

"At the time he did not accept our contract offer and the best possible way where we could get something from his departure was to make an exchange for the player of the quality of Mkhitaryan," Wenger said. 

"For him, it was a move to another big club. Overall, both parties had interest to do what happened.

"Of course [it will be little bit strange to face Alexis]. The only thing that he has not changed is the colour, that’s still red. 

"It’s strange for me to see him in a different shirt because he had a strong bond with the club and of course he was here for a few years. He did extremely well for us."

Pre-Match Report

Manchester United v Arsenal: The Brief

Old Trafford has been the setting for many memorable moments during the Arsène Wenger era, so it's an unusual feeling to have so little riding on the game as he takes on Manchester United for the last ever time as Arsenal boss this Sunday.

Victory there in 2002 sealed Wenger's second league and FA Cup double, four years after another 1-0 Old Trafford win had set up the double in his first full season. More recently Danny Welbeck scored an unforgettable winner in the 2015 FA Cup quarter-final, edging the boss towards the sixth of his record seven wins in the competition.

But Sunday's game will be more about reflection than reward – with us unlikely to improve upon sixth position even with a win – and priority inevitably given to Thursday's trip to Spain.

So there will be time for Wenger to reminisce upon his 59 previous encounters with United when he leads the side out this weekend.

In fact this fixture is actually something of an inconvenience – coming as it does sandwiched between the two legs of the Europa League semi-final – but the boss says he needs to strike the right balance between keeping players fresh by resting them, and keeping confidence up with a positive result. 

"I use it to win the game and as well prepare for the next Europa League game," Wenger said on Friday. "I felt last night like we were sharp, focused. We rested some players in our last game against West Ham but overall I thought we were ready and focused and in good shape." 

So in that sense it's business as usual. We go to Old Trafford with attention drifting towards Thursday's meeting with Atletico, but manager and fans alike will be excused for casting an eye back in time as well.

To preview the match we bring you classic goals against United, team news, an exclusive chat with the manager, Michael Cox's verdict on the opposition, facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


HAPPY MEMORIES

Wenger has had plenty of magic moments at United's home, and one from May 2002 springs immediately to mind… 

"Yes, we won the league there. We won big games and we lost big games. I always remember more the defeats than the wins because the wins are normal and the defeats are painful. The pain remains with you.

"The fierce rivalry, the tension before the game: all the managers will tell you we live for the big games, the important moments and where we can make people especially happy and have special satisfaction. That was always great rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal. We had good and bad memories there because it’s always two fantastic teams."

Arsène Wenger on Alex Ferguson

Team news

ARSENAL: Elneny (ankle), Cazorla (calf)

MANCHESTER UNITED: Valencia (calf, doubtful), Romero (knee)

The Opposition

Tactical expert Michael Cox assesses Sunday’s opponents…

“Jose Mourinho has spent much of the season switching between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, and has sometimes looked unsure where to deploy Paul Pogba, the club’s record signing. But the Frenchman clearly looks more comfortable on the left of a three-man midfield, with Ander Herrera to the right and Nemanja Matic playing the holding role. It would be a surprise if Mourinho deviated from that approach here.

“United’s full backs, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, are converted wingers and lacking the speed of their younger days. Both have performed solidly this season, but they’re not natural defenders.”


THE LAST WORD

After Sunday's game the boss will have just four - hopefully five - matches remaining in charge of the club he took over in 1996. The end of his reign is only a few weeks away, but he admits he hasn't thought about his next move yet…

"I will take four or five weeks, distance to analyse in the most objective way possible for me to make a decision after. Honestly, I don’t know what I will do yet and I would be lying to say that I do know.

"I haven’t made any decision because of course I’ve been solicited to make decisions, but at the moment I want to take a distance. This is a love story that was special for 22 years, so it will always take some time to recover from that. You also need time to analyse that in an objective way, to see where I’ll go from there."

Matchday Show: Manchester United (a)

Gallery

First team train ahead of Man United game

The boys were hard at work on Saturday ahead of our game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Our club photographer was at London Colney and sent back these exclusive images:

Interview

Wenger - My 'peaceful' relationship with Ferguson

Arsène Wenger with Sir Alex Ferguson

It was arguably the defining rivalry of the Premier League era thus far: Arenal v Manchester United, Wenger v Ferguson.

It may have been pretty explosive at its peak, but Arsene Wenger insists his relationship with his former rival has changed for the better.

"Now, it’s peaceful," he said. "Both of us have calmed down and with time respect always takes over. You know that both of you fight and I think with both of us, we identified highly with our clubs because we stayed for a long time. 

"For both of us, it was more than just a manager who does his job in a professional football cub. We were highly identified by being linked in a strong way with our club and having a love story. 

"He has a love story with Man United and I have one with Arsenal. That’s why maybe as well it was more than just winning a game at stake.
 
"We are closer already. We have a good relationship and we keep our individual memories."

Interview

Wenger on Beckham, Ronaldo and Manchester United

Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford

There were plenty of talking points as Arsène Wenger faced the media ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.

The boss was asked about previous trips to Old Trafford, his relationship with Jose Mourinho and his team selection this weekend. Here’s what he said:
 
on whether he will get a good reception at Old Trafford…
I always got a good reception.
 
on what a good reception would mean to him…
I don't know first of all what reception I will get, but we will be focused on winning the game. We had some great battles over 22 years and for me what will be at stake will be to recover from that [Atletico] result and before we go to Madrid to have a good game. If I get a good reception I will take it.
 
on whether his Arsenal sides helped United develop their football…
I don't know. I think Manchester United is a massive club with fantastic players. You realise only today when I look back now I realise what a great team they had. They had Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, and after that Ronaldo and Rooney together, when they were young. You see what they have done later and it shows you the challenge was huge. An unbelievable team. I realise that better at a distance than at the time.
 
on whether he’ll be sorry to say goodbye to Mourinho…
I say goodbye to everyone. In France we say ‘au revoir’ which means you might see me again.
 
on whether he can be friends with Mourinho…
It depends. I respect him of course and I don't want to go into individual… You should give me a little bit of peace for my final weeks and not try to push me into another confrontation. I want to go peacefully, and with Mourinho now because he is a great manager.
 
on whether he regrets not taking the Manchester United job…
No because Arsenal is the love of my life. I turned many clubs down to stay here and face the challenge when we built the stadium. I don't regret that because I see my life and what is important to me.
 
on Martin Edwards saying he went to see him to offer him the job…
Look, yes I speak to everybody. Yes I met Martin Edwards but many people came to see me in my home. But I was loyal to this club.
 
on whether he’ll rest anyone on Sunday…
Don't know. Maybe it's better to play. I will see how everybody responds on Saturday
 
on why he didn’t make any substitutes against Atletico…
We didn't look under threat, we had no experienced strikers on the bench, only Iwobi and he is not full of confidence so I didn't take the gamble. I think we were not under threat too much to concede a goal.
 
on whether Arsenal would have dominated had they stayed at Highbury…
Don't know. We had to change our philosophy when we moved to the Emirates but maybe in the short term it punished us a bit on potential championship winning teams but in the very long term it was the right decision.

Matchday Show

Follow the Man Utd game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Matchday Show: Manchester United (a)

We return to Premier League action when we face Manchester United on Sunday afternoon - and if you're not going to Old Trafford, don't panic because you can follow the game with us.

Tune in to the website from 4pm (UK time) for the following from our Premier League match: 

  • Matchday Show, with live build-up and audio commentary from 4.30pm (UK time)
  • Live text commentary - featuring minute-by-minute updates and insights from our fans on Twitter
  • A short goals clip, extended highlights and a full match replay will be available from midnight on Sunday

It's all free with Digital Membership - and remember, you can listen on the Arsenal App too!

Team news

Team news: Is Micki available for Sunday?

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United.

 
This is what the Arsenal manager had to say:
 
on the latest team news…
We have no new problems. Mkhitaryan is available. Elneny is out, Cazorla too of course. Everyone else is OK.