Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger Can't Have It Both Ways, It Is Either Europe or the Title Chase

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wenger Can't Have It Both Ways, It Is Either Europe or the Title Chase

Article excerpt

Byline: Patrick Barclay on Monday

IT WILL be like the good old days when Arsenal visit Manchester United on Sunday. They should serve pizza in commemoration of times when these two were the jousting giants of the Premier League.

Back then you might have Patrick Vieira threatening Gary Neville -- until Roy Keane stepped in. And that was only in the tunnel. The outcome might be Arsenal laying claim to a title at Old Trafford, or United denying the Invincibles a 50-match sequence; it was after that one the food flew and Arsene Wenger confronted Sir Alex Ferguson with fists clenched.

Coincidentally or not, the managers' relationship improved when Arsenal became less of a concern for Ferguson, who wrote in his book that, towards the end of the 8-2 drubbing a couple of years ago, he almost wished his team would stop scoring to save their opponents from further humiliation. If that was Wenger's nadir, a more healthy era now beckons. Arsenal may never do another Double, or reach another Champions League Final, but at least they can gaze at the peaks again.

They will arrive at Old Trafford as Premier League leaders, eight points ahead of a United adjusting to the management of David Moyes.

How satisfying it would be to plant a flag on Moyes's territory, for Mesut Ozil -- the creative player Wayne Rooney vainly suggested Ferguson should buy -- to orchestrate a victory on the ground of the champions, leaving Robin van Persie to ponder life's ironies.

The Arsenal improvement emphasised by their stirring triumph over Liverpool at the Emirates has allowed the supporters to dream again. They ought to be careful, for United, too, are on the rise, buoyed by the growing relationship between Rooney and Van Persie -- it took 22 minutes to destroy Fulham on Saturday -- and the startling emergence of Adnan Januzaj.

Until recently, teams were coming to Old Trafford -- Southampton, West Brom -- and taking points. Not sneaking points -- striding in and assertively taking them. …

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