Wenger praises ‘very classy’ tribute from Manchester United
Outgoing Arsenal manager is honoured at Old Trafford before his team’s 2-1 defeat
Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini scores against Arsenal, at Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain. Photograph: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Wenger, who finishes 22 years at Arsenal at the end of the season, was managing them for a 22nd and final time at Old Trafford during Sunday’s Premier League clash.
To mark the occasion, before kick-off Alex Ferguson presented on United’s behalf a vase to the 68-year-old French man. Asked about his ovation as he walked along the touchline, Wenger said: “When you’re not a danger any more, people love you.
“I am thankful to Manchester United because they had a nice gesture. It is the first time I get a trophy before a game. It is very classy from them.”
Wenger fielded an inexperienced XI that was Arsenal’s youngest in the fixture since August 2011 and, after losing to an added-time Marouane Fellaini header, said he believed whoever succeeds him will take over a squad of depth.
“My successor will watch this game and hopefully he will come to a positive conclusion, because I think they are the future of Arsenal football club – some, 100 per cent,” Wenger said. “We had a very young team and the performance was positive.
“The players are destroyed because they gave everything and were caught in the final minute. There were many question marks if we would be strong enough to fight, but the quality was good, the spirit was good, many players stood up. We tired a bit in the last 20 minutes and were a bit more under pressure. It was a negative result and a positive performance.”
Paul Pogba opened the scoring on 16 minutes before Henrikh Mkhitaryan equalised on 51 minutes.
Yet though the victory put United in pole position for a second-place finish, with 77 points with three games remaining, Romelu Lukaku’s foot injury in the second half is of concern with the FA Cup final on May 19th.
“I don’t know [how he is],” United manager José Mourinho said. “For him to be out is not okay; he wants to play all the time, he’s never tired. To say immediately change me is because he couldn’t play. But there are three more weeks until the final. The problem is on his foot.
“I hope it is not something that keeps him out of a game that is in three weeks’ time but I don’t know. When a player is injured I’m not immediately going for good or bad news.”
Mourinho is positive regarding Fellaini, who is out of contract in June. “The position is that we are almost there [with a new deal] but in football almost is not enough,” he said. “We are almost there – I want to see the white paper with the United crest and [United executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward’s signature before I celebrate.”
Wenger also has injury concerns ahead of the Europa League semi-final second leg at Atlético Madrid this week. “Mkhitaryan I took off because he had a little knock on his knee and Ospina has a problem and Iwobi a hamstring problem. Definitely out for Thursday? No.”
– Guardian service