Wenger promises to make United rue missed chances

Almunia excellence keeps Arsenal in the hunt after 1-0 defeat in semi-final first leg
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The Independent Online

Arsene Wenger predicted that Manchester United will regret not scoring more than one goal after their 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final first leg here last night.

United take a slender lead into next Tuesday's second leg thanks to the defender John O'Shea's strike at the far post after 18 minutes. The European champions totally dominated for long periods of the game but Manuel Almunia was superb in the Arsenal goal and made several crucial saves to keep his side in with a real chance of overturning the result at the Emirates.

Arsenal manager Wenger promised his side would play better in the return leg, and that United will rue their missed chances. He said: "I believe the tie is still open. They can have regrets because they didn't score a second goal. It is up to us to make them regret they didn't score a second goal. We are disappointed because we lost.

"It is advantage to Manchester United after they played well. But I am confident because I believe we will be on top next time. We will see a different Arsenal team. I believe we can do it at home. It is an opportunity for us to show character and mental strength and I am confident we will do it."

In addition to Almunia's saves, Cristiano Ronaldo hit the bar as Sir Alex Ferguson's side, who are hoping to become the first team to defend the Champions League title successfully since its change of format, put their great rivals under extreme pressure. But Arsenal succeeded in limiting the damage to just one goal, as United failed to turn their dominance into further goals.

The United defender Rio Ferdinand was rushed to hospital for an X-ray on a possible broken rib, and could be a doubt for next week. Ferguson said: "It doesn't look good at the moment but I hope he will be OK."

Ferguson said Arsenal were lucky to escape Old Trafford having conceded just once. "We could have scored four but their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves," Ferguson said. "I am sure we can go there and score. That's the problem for Arsenal. When the chips are down we are capable of reaching a higher level."

Ferguson also suggested that Arsenal will put out a weakened side at Portsmouth on Saturday as they are out of the Premier League title race, while he will have to pick a strong United team for the game at Middlesbrough. The United manager said: "He could pick [assistant manager] Pat Rice at right back and Arsène can play centre forward. The Portsmouth game doesn't matter to them."

Ferguson paid tribute to match-winner O'Shea, who dedicated his goal to his ill father Jim. "He is one of the great professionals of our time," Ferguson said. "He never complains and is happy to play anywhere. He is so versatile. If I had to pick a team for the final now, then he would be in it."

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