Played off the Park

United see off Gunners but Wenger says ‘don’t write off title hopes’

Arsene Wenger last night offered a prickly riposte to his side's poor record against Manchester United and Chelsea, insisting that no conclusions could be drawn from another Old Trafford defeat and that observers should "be calm" before writing off their title aspirations.

United's 1-0 win, courtesy of Park Ji-sung's fourth goal in seven matches against Arsenal, extends Wenger's winless run against the two outstanding sides of the past decade to 11 games, but the Arsenal manager was dismissive of the record. "Why do we always seem to lose these big games?" he said. "You are a football specialist and I leave this analysis to you. Why do you ask me because you know everything? I've spoken about the game. You have to be calm and be realistic and objective. United won the game tonight and you don't necessarily have to go to big conclusions. I believe we are here to analyse one game – the game of tonight. Be calm." Arsenal's next chance to put that record right comes when Chelsea visit the Emirates on Monday 27 December.

United, who leapfrogged two points clear of Arsenal with a game in hand and a plus-five goal difference over them, owed the result to a solid defensive display and commanding midfield performances from Anderson and Darren Fletcher. The penalty Wayne Rooney blasted over with just over 15 minutes left, when Gaël Clichy had handled in the area, was a small blemish.

"It was an unusual penalty from Wayne. He normally keeps the ball down and I've never known him put one over the bar," manager Sir Alex Ferguson reflected. "That gave Arsenal some impetus but our back four were fantastic; absolutely magnificent." United's defence is certainly beginning to assume the qualities of their last title winning season two years ago. They have conceded just four goals in eight games.

Wenger was derogatory about the state of the Old Trafford pitch which he said was "poor... bouncy and slippery, as well" and had prevented either side from operating to their technical best. But he was reluctant to suggest that the surface did not befit a Premier League fixture on an evening when United extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games. "If I ask you do you want a good pitch or a bad pitch, what do you say?" he said.

Wenger also dismissed the suggestion that his side might have risen better to the challenge after United's Patrice Evra had cast aspersions on a "training ground" culture. "I don't give too much importance to what people say quite frankly. I try to be as objective as I can and make my mind up on what I see," Wenger said. "What I feel doesn't matter. We lost the game and I think, to be as objective as I can, the game was very intense. We were up on the intensity and organisational level but overall I think Man Utd defended very well."

Ferguson lamented the loss of Park for seven games after 26 December for the Asian Cup but was focusing already on Sunday's visit to Stamford Bridge. "We have got a difficult game at Chelsea next Sunday – that's more important now," he said. "We are starting to get there in terms of our form. It's improving. If the back four continue to play like that, it will give us a great chance."

Rio Ferdinand admitted that United had won a war of attrition rather than offering a glittering display. "In these games you don't always play well. But we wanted to get three points and we did that. We didn't show that much in the way of silks [skill] but three points is three points."

United, taking on an Arsenal side with the Premier League's best away record, came up short, creatively. Their best efforts fell to Marouane Chamakh, who missed with a header and had a shot blocked by Nemanja Vidic. Arsenal's physicality suggested that they might have sought to prove a point but they actually struggled for composure, collecting four bookings, and Jack Wilshere looked overwhelmed in the Arsenal midfield. Arsenal – and particularly Cesc Fabregas, who appeared from the bench in the second half – were furious that Ferdinand escaped without a booking after a dangerous leap into Bacary Sagna. To compound matters, Song was then booked six minutes from time for chopping down Patrice Evra in an even worse challenge.

* Ferguson was also withering last night about Blackburn's decision to sack his old friend Sam Allardyce. "Sam phoned me at 3.10pm and said he was coming to the game and wanted a cup of tea," the United manager said. "He phoned me again at 4.30pm and said he's been sacked. I have never heard such a stupid decision in my life. It is absolutely ridiculous. I don't know what they are doing up there but it confounds common sense. I would not like to have to follow him."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits