Wenger's fresh swipe at Ferguson

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The Independent Online

When Arsene Wenger said, in response to Sir Alex Ferguson's denunciation of him in The Independent, "I will never answer any questions any more about this man," few felt he would be able to resist for long. Sure enough the Arsenal manager has already resumed the conflict telling French television he believed Ferguson "has lost all sense of reality".

When Arsene Wenger said, in response to Sir Alex Ferguson's denunciation of him in The Independent, "I will never answer any questions any more about this man," few felt he would be able to resist for long. Sure enough the Arsenal manager has already resumed the conflict telling French television he believed Ferguson "has lost all sense of reality".

Wenger's outburst will delight Ferguson, whose attempt to goad Wenger has reaped spectacular reward, and dismay the Football Association as it fights a rearguard action against the rising tide of venom. To this end the FA yesterday asked Chelsea to account for Jose Mourinho's contribution to last week's verbal jousting but had hoped to pass the Ferguson-Wenger dispute onto the League Managers' Association. The LMA yesterday said that disciplinary action was outside its remit.

It is hard to imagine, however, that anyone could have gagged Wenger after reading Ferguson describe him as a "disgrace", Arsenal as "the worst losers of all time", and accuse him of confronting Ferguson in the tunnel after Manchester United had beaten the champions in October. Ferguson also said Wenger should apologise - but he did not expect him "ever to apologise for anything - he's that type of person."

Wenger told TPS Star television: "[Ferguson] has lost all sense of reality to the extent that he is going out and looking for a confrontation and asking the person to apologise. Ferguson's out of order. He has pushed the cork in a bit far this time and he has lost a lot of credibility."

Wenger was speaking before being honoured by the Football Writers' Association at The Savoy on Sunday night for his contribution to English football. Among the tributes was one from Gérard Houllier who said, in a reference to the infamous food-fight, he had known Wenger a long time, and that Wenger liked pizza too much to waste it.

Wenger himself said, after seeing a highlights compilation of his reign at Arsenal: "I think I am a calm person but when I watch those pictures maybe I am not. It can be a lonely job. As you say in this country: 'Who motivates the motivator?'"

He also said: "I'm sorry for my frustrated reactions after games because sometimes it's hell not paradise, but I am still happy working in England. When you walk into a place like Anfield, you think English football is where you want to be."

John Barnwell, the LMA's chief executive, alluded to that passion when he said of the row: "In a very emotional game you do get strong personalities and a difference of opinion. I think this has happened with Alex and with Arsène over too long a period. It's past history; it should have been dealt with but it's now reared its head again. The nearer you get to the end the higher emotions get but this is perhaps a step too far. But we at the League Managers' Association have no big stick to beat them with. If the FA feel they should take action then they should."

It has against Mourinho who, in using the word "cheat" to describe the behaviour of United players at Stamford Bridge last week, crossed the line. Mourinho said: "In the second half, it was whistle and whistle, fault and fault, and cheat and cheat." Wenger was fined for saying Ruud Van Nistelrooy "can only cheat people" and Mourinho could be similarly punished.

The FA will not, though, take action against Wayne Rooney following his goal celebration after scoring the winner at Anfield on Saturday. Nor will Merseyside Police. If that was good news for Ferguson less welcome was United's confirmation that they intend to take a full-strength squad on a tour of the Far East this summer. United yesterday announced they will play Hong Kong on 23 July and are expected to add dates in China and Japan. United's summer tour of the States last summer was blamed by Ferguson for United's sluggish start to this season. There is no major tournament this summer but United players will be on England's US tour.

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