Disaster if we miss out on top four, says Arsene
A new year has brought Arsene Wenger no respite from his usual demons – and then there is Sir Alex Ferguson.
Poor results, injuries, mega-rich
rivals and perceived injustices still torture Wenger. 'I don't stay
sane,' he joked as he prepared once more to tackle Ferguson's Manchester
'He will manage until he dies and I think he'll be 100,' added the Arsenal boss.
Mutual respect: Wenger (left) and Ferguson (right) renew their rivalry
The idea of 30 more years of Fergie at United will send a shiver through many managers.
The last time these old foes met, the Gunners were thrashed 8-2.
'Emotionally it was very difficult but it was not a final,' said Wenger.
'We still had another 35 games to play. It was three points lost in a humiliating way but you can come back. If you lose the final of the Champions League, it has another meaning.
'We were weak on the day but people forget we conceded four in the last 20 minutes with 10 men and had played for our lives a few days earlier in Udinese in terrific heat. We came back almost exhausted.'
In five months since, Arsenal have recovered well, only to lose at Fulham and Swansea and slip out of the Barclays Premier League's top four since New Year's Day.
If today's results go against them, they could kick off tomorrow in seventh, seven points adrift of the Champions League places.
Harsh reality: Arsenal looking to avenge their brutal battering
Chairman Peter Hill-Wood claimed this week it will not be a disaster if they were to miss out on Europe's elite competition for the first time in 15 years, but his manager disagrees.
As Rio said, wouldn't you
just 8 2 lose a game 8-2!
Sunday August 28, 2010 – a day neither club will forget. Manchester United thrashed Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford. This is what the players and the managers had to say…
'The defeat is painful and I do feel humiliated. It took me 24 hours to watch the game on tape. It was painful, but you must face reality.'
Sir Alex Ferguson
'We could easily have had more goals, but, to be honest, I didn't want to score more than eight.'
Robin van Persie
'What happened against Manchester United at Old Trafford is a motivation, for sure. I'd never lost a match 8-2 before so I'm hungry to put that right, as is the entire team.'
Rio Ferdinand (Twitter)
'I would 8 2 lose 8-2 in a game…to be fair AFC had a depleted team today…but you still got to go out and beat them,+ we did.'
'It was completely dead in the dressing room afterwards. It is hard to recover from that result and it could hurt a lot of players.'
'It's a pleasure to play in a performance like that, with world-class players. I see in training we have it in our locker. When it comes together, it's pretty exciting.'
'I suffered during this match and especially because of the enormous rivalry between the clubs.'
'To beat Arsenal 8-2, with the players they have got, the history of the club and the manager, it was a great result. We certainly didn't expect to beat them 8-2 and I am pretty sure it won't be like that again.'
'I remember watching it at home and I kept turning the TV off, so imagine what a proper Arsenal supporter must have been going through.'
'For me it would be,' said Wenger. 'I want to play with the best and we want to be in there – in the top four – and to play in the Champions League. Anything else would not be good enough.'
This from someone who, earlier this season, insisted the only way he would quit the Emirates was if he felt he had not done well enough. Wenger's appetite remains, judging by his efforts to deflect the blame for the last two defeats on to injuries and referees.
His list of absent players will be in double figures against United if Thomas Vermaelen or Thierry Henry fail pre-match tests on calf strains.
'We are in a worse situation than anyone on the injury front,' said Wenger.
'I would not have believed it if you'd told me in August that we would be in January and Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby have played zero games.'
Contentious decisions eat away, too, and he turned the clock back to September 2003 and the start of the 'Invincibles' season to drive home a point about Swansea's penalty on Sunday, awarded for a foul on Nathan Dyer.
Wenger said: 'Robert Pires once dived against Portsmouth and for six months it was a story in the newspapers. Dyer dived and nobody said a word. If it doesn't matter when Dyer dives why does it matter when Pires dives
'There's no conspiracy but you want the right decisions to be made. If one day you manage a club or you're chairman of a club you would feel exactly the same.
We're on our way: Danny Welbeck scores Manchester United's first goal
'It is a life where you need a certain distance from the emotion of the game and you learn that with experience but you have to be involved emotionally because it's part of your job.'
Wenger put his emotion aside after the 8-2 defeat and watched his usual re-run within 24 hours of the final whistle.
Great eight: Ashley Young fires home against Arsenal in the rout
It was painful, he admits, but he insists there is no quest for revenge.
He may be eight years younger than Ferguson but he has learned not to measure himself against the Scot.
'My motivation is to win this game,' Wenger said with a smile.
'I will never beat his record. To last the longest is not a record.
Hard to take: Wenger and the Arsenal bench were dumbfounded at Old Trafford
'I will never retire. I will work for sure. I wouldn't like to get up in the morning with nothing to do.
'Maybe I will do a different job and not be out there with the football team every day.
'We have to consider we are in a job where we need our physical strength and health. That weakens the older you get, I've heard.'