Arsene Wenger cut a disconsolate figure last night, admitting he was at a loss to explain why his team had performed so poorly. The Arsenal manager suggested there were "some mental reasons" pondering aloud the possibility that his team were "inhibited, or tense". Wenger refused to concede the championship challenge was over, however, admitting: "We need to deliver something special to stay in the race."
He added: "The defeat is difficult to accept, but easy to explain, as we were poor defensively and offensively. It is a massive blow and a massive disappointment, but we have to recover and produce a much better performance on Sunday."
Next Sunday Arsenal play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and a jubilant Sir Alex Ferguson expressed the hope that "Arsenal batter them". The Manchester United manager added: "This is the time of year to kick on and it was a great performance. The win in midweek [against Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final] galvanised us."
Ferguson picked out Nani and Rooney for special praise. The Portuguese, he said, had "played his best game for us" while Rooney "was unbelievable". Ferguson added: "Nani's last three games have been first-class. Rooney was a really great player. They couldn't handle him."
Prior to the match David Gill, United's chief executive, had insisted Rooney was not for sale, arguing his situation was very different to that of Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter wanted to leave but Rooney, by his own admission, is happy at Old Trafford. This Ferguson confirmed: "I know the boy is happy. He's not changed like some of these celebrity footballers, he'll never change."
In an interview with BBC Radio Five Live, Gill also insisted United would not sell either Old Trafford, or their Carrington training ground. Both were mentioned as possible sources of revenue in the prospectus for the club's bond scheme. Gill said: "The sale-and-lease-back opportunity for Carrington within the bond document is done for financial and tax planning. Manchester United will continue to have complete control over that asset and if it ever happened it would be for a peppercorn rent. But I am 100 per cent convinced the sale and lease-back of Old Trafford will never happen under the Glazer ownership."
Gill, who spoke out against the Glazers' takeover before it happened, but has since become a staunch defender of the Florida-based owners, insisted the club, and its finances, were healthy: "We had a record turnover, roughly £280m, and a cash profit in excess of £90m. Very few companies have posted such encouraging results at what is clearly a very difficult time."
The chief executive added that Ferguson's summer transfer budget could exceed the £55m remaining from the Ronaldo transfer and the owners understood that the club would only succeed financially if it was successful on the pitch.
The subject of transfers was also put to Wenger. Would he buy before the end of the window? A firm "No" was the answer. Come the summer, though, he may consider adding some experience in midfield, and perhaps a new goalkeeper and striker.Reuse content