Arsene Wenger plays down fixture list row - telling Manchester United tough start 'is part of being a champion'

Arsenal manager responds after David Moyes hints at conspiracy

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The Independent Football

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes negotiating a tough start to the Premier League campaign is “part of being a champion” as Manchester United prepare for some stern early tests in their title defence.

New United manager David Moyes has described an opening five-game sequence which includes games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City - as well as a tricky opening trip to Swansea on Saturday - as the toughest the club have faced for 20 years and has sought reassurances from the Premier League that the run of games was nothing more than coincidence.

It was the sort of conspiracy theory Moyes' predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson often aired during his near 27-year reign at Old Trafford, and his old sparring partner Wenger remarked jokingly today: "I had [Sir Alex] on the phone, and he was quite happy to have retired."

On a more serious note, Wenger added: "It depends how you play always. If you have a good start, if they manage to play well during these games it will be a strength for them because after that they maybe have easier games.

"The coincidence of the fixtures is part of being a champion. Sometimes you have a bit of luck, sometimes you have bad fixtures. That is part of it."

Moyes said on Thursday: "The old manager told me those sort of things happened. I hope it's not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year (that) the fixtures have been made much more difficult.

"I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure. It's the hardest start Manchester United have had for 20 years."

The Premier League issued a response to Moyes' comments, saying: "'David has put these concerns to us. We have absolutely assured him the process is random and above board. He has accepted those assurances."