Wenger plans for clash with ‘strong’ United
Arsenal set to face Man United at the Emirates after visitors' boss Jose Mourinho said he would prioritise club's Europa League tie
05 May, 2017 — By Steve Barnett
ARSENE Wenger isn’t banking on an easy home win this Sunday when Manchester United visit the Emirates Stadium despite the fact that his counterpart Jose Mourinho has suggested he’ll be fielding a weakened team.
United manager Mourinho said he is prioritising the two-legged tie against Spanish side Celta Vigo in the semi-final of the Europa League, and will therefore be resting key players ahead of the Premier League trip to north London.
Wenger, however, says he fully expects “a strong” United side to take to the field.
“We only focus on our performance,” revealed the Arsenal boss. “I don’t know what Manchester United will do. We only know that they have a massive squad with plenty of quality players. Only a top-level performance will get us the win we want. We cannot speculate on any weakness of United. No matter who plays, they will have a strong team out.”
Once a mouth-watering fixture between two title rivals, the game this weekend has a somewhat unfamiliar feel to it as the sixth-placed Gunners entertain a United team sitting just one place above them in the league.
Far from being the result of crises at the rival clubs, Wenger believes it’s just a sign of how strong the league has become. “It just shows that everybody has moved up and the number of clubs that can fight at the top is bigger this season, while the difference between the teams is smaller,” he said. “We lost at Tottenham at the weekend but they have had a good season, Manchester City played a draw at Middlesbrough and United drew against Swansea. That shows as soon as you are not at your best you can drop points.”
Arsenal go into the United clash still reeling from the 2-0 defeat against Tottenham, a result that Wenger admits leaves the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season resting in the hands of his rivals.
He said: “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.
“Sunday is a big game. Of course, every big game boosts your confidence but, for us, more than focusing on the fact it is 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.”