Arsene Wenger: The Arsenal players are still friends with Robin van Persie

The Manchester United striker scored on his first return to the Emirates

Arsène Wenger said on Sunday that he and the Arsenal players still considered Robin van Persie their friend, in spite of a low-key demonstration of hostility from fans towards the club's former captain on the occasion of his first return to the Emirates yesterday with Manchester United.

Van Persie scored his 25th Premier League goal of the season, a penalty, to give United a 1-1 draw after Theo Walcott had opened the scoring. He applauded the United fans at the end and was booed as he went down the tunnel by the Arsenal support but Wenger announced at his post-match press conference that the player had been in the home dressing room to see his former team-mates.

Earlier in the day, Van Persie had mistakenly tried to walk into the room, but post-match it had been his intention. The Arsenal manager joked that part of the reason for the visit had been that "the food is better" in the home dressing room.

Asked whether the Arsenal players still got along with Van Persie, Wenger replied: "Of course." He added: "People who have played together for five or six years, they [still] fight on the pitch. I think our defenders didn't make life easy for him at all. We played with great commitment. And I feel our two central defenders played very well."

Wenger said: "We are rivals but look, at the end of the day, we decided to sell him. You want us to make a guard of honour and to respect the champions but you have to accept as well that respect exists after the game. You want to give absolutely everything for the 90 minutes and after the game you can still talk to each other."

As for the fans' reaction to Van Persie, Wenger said: "When he was here he didn't get this kind of reception, they loved him so today it was a little bit 'disappointed love'.

"I don't think he scored, he scored a penalty. It counts but it's not completely the same. When you buy a goalscorer you always look at how many goals he scored with penalties and how many he scored in open play. But he took his penalty very well. I know when he decided to take the penalty that it was 80 per cent he scored. He was our penalty taker. He does that very well. He does a lot of things very well, Robin van Persie."

The Dutch striker did not celebrate his goal, although Wenger said it would have been understandable if he had. "Yes, that has become basically now another way to behave for football players in England. I wouldn't be shocked if a guy celebrates because internally he is happy anyway."

The result leaves Arsenal fourth with three games to play. They are two points clear of Tottenham in fifth, although Spurs have one game in hand, against third-placed Chelsea, who beat Swansea yesterday. Asked where the result left Arsenal, Wenger said: "With no room for dropping points, we know that."

If Tottenham beat Chelsea on 8 May, and both sides win their remaining games then they will take the last two Champions League places – even if Arsenal, who have qualified for the Champions League for the last 15 seasons, win their final three matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I think that Arsenal set off at a fantastic pace, very aggressive and a lot of tackles and I think the referee just couldn't keep up. When we have a foul he's booked us right away.

"We had five players booked. We have one of the best disciplinary records in the country. For Manchester United to have five players booked I don't think that's right. From the first to the last minute it was two teams giving absolutely everything to win."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'