New-look Arsenal return to scene of last season's mauling
Wenger’s selection teaser is whether to play Theo Walcott, the hat-trick hero against Reading, or Aaron Ramsey; both started in the 8-2. Otherwise, the other players are untouched by the trauma.
It was interesting to hear Wenger admit to one particular mistake in the drubbing. He said that the scoreline was 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, which was not quite right; Wayne Rooney put United 4-1 up in the 64th minute and it was 6-1 after 70 minutes.
But Wenger’s point was that the result reached record levels in the closing stages and it was partly due to his desire to retain an attacking outlook, even after Carl Jenkinson was sent off in the 77th minute.
“I decided to go for an offensive ... to try to come back with 10 men and we were already dead,” Wenger said. “After that, we paid for it so, maybe, I should have said, ‘Let’s keep it tight and go out with 4-1’. But we wanted absolutely to give ourselves a chance to come back. Maybe we shouldn’t have done that.”
United said similar things after their 6-1 derby disaster against City last season, when they conceded three times after the 89th minute, but it is in the make-up of both teams to go for it. Wenger mused that he had been the victim of his nature but his philosophy cannot change.
“You cannot play with [Jack] Wilshere, [Santi] Cazorla and Arteta and say, ‘Look, we only defend’. Sometimes, when you don’t win, you first maybe have to learn not to lose before you can win again so you give a bit more security to the team. I have done that as well. But our basic philosophy is to go forward and attack.”
Ferguson, for his part, is expecting no repetition of last year’s spectacular scoreline.
“It won’t happen again, that’s for sure,” he said. “No point living in the past anyway, just got to look forward. It could be a way of motivating Arsenal, that’s possible, but I think we have to have the motivation to make sure we win the match.”
The manager later told MUTV that Nemanja Vidic is not expected to return from a knee injury until “maybe around Christmas time”.
United’s captain was expected to return from a meniscus operation on his right knee in the third week of November but faces being out for a further month.
Wenger, as ever, will arrive at Old Trafford full of hope, mindful that victory would ignite Arsenal’s Premier League campaign.
He has noted defensive weaknesses about United, which were exposed by Tottenham Hotspur in September, although he admitted his team had hardly looked rock -solid at Reading. It promises to be another wild ride.