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Wenger sees relief for referees

09 Nov 2013 11:02:53

Wenger sees relief for referees

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes referees will feel less pressure at Manchester United now Sir Alex Ferguson is no longer in the dugout.

Wenger admitted it will seem "strange" to head to Old Trafford and not come up against his long-time adversary as they prowl the technical area.

Nevertheless, the Arsenal manager feels the Scot used his personality to exert extra pressure on the match officials, with the infamous 'Fergie Time' watch gestures all part of his gamesmanship.

To this day, Wenger continues to be troubled by the outcome of the encounter between the two sides in October 2004, which saw Arsenal's 49-match unbeaten Premier League run end and left Ferguson covered in pizza following a furious row between staff and players from both teams after the game.

Wenger remains convinced referee Mike Riley should have sent off United defender Rio Ferdinand for a trip on Freddie Ljungberg and also not awarded a late penalty to Wayne Rooney.

When asked what it might be like to play at Old Trafford without the presence of Ferguson, Wenger responded: "That is a question you shouldn't ask me, but the referees.

"Every year there is a company who makes the table reasoned without the referees' mistakes, so check that."

Wenger joked: "I think the referees were absolutely relaxed and happy to go there."

Michael Oliver will be the man in the middle on Sunday, with Wenger adding that it was up to officials to get things right.

"I expect the referees to make the right decisions," he said. "I never have preconceived ideas.

"It is down to the referee to make the right decisions, to protect the players and to give the free-kicks you deserve.

"There (at Old Trafford) pressure comes as well from the crowd when they go for every ball and put the referee under pressure, and that is a bit more in the north than in the south.

"You know that when you go to Sunderland the crowd plays every ball, when you go to Everton the crowd plays every ball. Then in London, the crowd is a bit more relaxed."

United head into Sunday's clash against leaders Arsenal playing catch-up, down in eighth place after three defeats in the league already so far following the end of Ferguson's long reign.

Signs of transition under David Moyes are emerging, however, with the Champions League draw away to Real Sociedad making it eight games unbeaten in all competitions.

Wenger believes the former Everton boss is soon finding out just how demanding one of the sport's top jobs can be.

"He will be under more pressure than he was at Everton to deliver, certainly," said Wenger, who is now the longest serving manager in the Premier League.

"They have been slow at the start, yes, but they have been recently more consistent.

"It depends as well how the season goes, how the games go because sometimes games are more hectic, sometimes they are clean, it is never predictable - welcome to our world of pressure."

The Gunners head to Old Trafford on the back of an impressive 1-0 Champions League victory at Borussia Dortmund which put them on course for qualification from Group F, and Wenger has renewed belief the squad have what it takes to last the distance this season.

"Yes, we believe we can get a result," said Wenger, whose side beat second-placed Liverpool last weekend to move five points clear.

"We go there like we go everywhere, to control the game and to win the game.

"We still think the best way to win at Old Trafford is to control the game, which means take the ball, keep the ball and have more possession than they do."

Arsenal were thumped 8-2 by Manchester United in August 2011 and last tasted an away victory over the Red Devils back in September 2006, with a late goal from Emmanuel Adebayor.

Wenger hopes it will be another long-overdue memorable performance this time around.

"We are maybe a little less under pressure because we have a little advantage (in the league), but we have to use that in a positive way," said Wenger, who will wait on the fitness of England midfielder Jack Wilshere following his ankle problem.

"Our hunger will be tested there, it will be about how much we take advantage of this situation or do we just go there and say 'let's see what happens'."


PA

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