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1,000-up Wenger richly deserves tribute from Sir Alex Ferguson whatever maverick Mourinho says about Arsenal legend

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The day Old Trafford fell in love with the professor - The Arsenal manager was sent to the stands on 29 August 2009

I don’t care which team you support, anyone who loves the beautiful game owes a huge thank you to long-serving Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Whatever Jose Mourinho may think or say, deep down even Chelsea’s maverick manager surely respects the outstanding contribution Wenger has made to the Premier League.

When the two men come face to face in the dugout at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Wenger will be taking charge of his 1,000th match as manager of the Gunners.

It is an outstanding record that looked an impossible dream three seasons ago when his team were crushed 8-2 by Manchester United. It was a result that sparked a barrage of abuse from fans and so-called experts who called for his head. The way the man affectionately known as the professor has stuck to his guns and turned the cirtics around speaks volumes for his character.

by John GubbaDespite consistently losing his best players – Henry, Fabregas and most recently Robin van Persie – Wenger has never abandoned his purist principles in search of a winning formula based on an attractive passing game. For much of this season his team defied the odds by heading the Premier League, boosted by the outstanding early season form of Aaron Ramsey and new record signing Mezut Ozil.

The recent dip in form that has seen tomorrow’s rivals Chelsea take up the running at the top, last month prompted Mourinho to describe Wenger as a “specialist in failure” after the Frenchman commented that anyone ruling themselves out of the title race was doing so out of a fear of falling short – a clear jibe at his opposite number at Chelsea.

It all adds extra spice to the latest Chelsea-Arsenal showdown, a fixture that has been dominated by the Blues during Wenger’s resign with just four wins in 18 attempts home and away.

But the real achievement by Wenger has been the way he has changed the history of the club he has managed for close on 18 seasons. Not just with his trophy haul but by re-branding the Gunners image from ‘boring, boring Arsenal” to one of the most attractive sides in European football.

Many fans were asking “Arsene who?” when Wenger was appointed manager on 30 September 1996. But the Frenchman is now hailed the club’s best ever  manager and his 2003-04 Arsenal side were named the greatest in Premier League history after going for the entire season unbeaten, leading to their nickname The Invincibles.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal spans 17 top-four finishes, 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns, two doubles, three Premier League titles, four FA Cup triumphs and six Community Shield appearances. So far his 999 games in charge have delivered  572 victories . . .  a win percentage of 57.3.

Mourino described Wenger as "specialist in failure"

Mourino described Wenger as “specialist in failure”

Critics will point to the nine year trophy drought that prompted Mourinho to muse: “I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”

Wenger’s legacy – and there is no reason why he can’t carry on for a few more years – is that he  has become synonymous with the club, their move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium and their brand of passing football.

The harsh reality of modern day football is that Arsenal’s lack of silverware for nearly a decade leaves fans divided between those who still trust Wenger to deliver and those who have lost patience with his methods. But let us all pay the Frenchman the respect he deserves as he reached his 1,000 match milestone. The fact that he becomes only the fourth manager in English football to join this exclusive club, along with Dario Gradi and Manchester United legends Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, tells you what a remarkable achievement this is.

Fitting then to leave the final word to Sir Alex because the pair, now friends, had an intense rivalry that included five years when they were not on speaking terms after a match at Old Trafford in October 2004 ended a record 49 match unbeaten run by Arsenal.

“I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark,” the Scot said in a statement issued on Friday by the League Managers Association.

“Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.

“Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other’s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides – Arsenal play the right way.”

Ferguson, who retired last year after 26 years at United, said playing against Arsenal always presented special challenges “that I burned many hours over the years thinking about. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

guardian-respect-999

Wenger reaping rewards for putting faith in Aaron Ramsey when Welsh youngster looked destined for Manchester United

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MUFC_AFC_PL

BY JOHN GUBBA

You can say what you like about the durability of an Arsenal side searching for their first silverware in nine seasons. But the Gunners boast one of the standout players of the season so far in Aaron Ramsey . . . and the most successful Premier League manager in Arsene Wenger.

Ramsey, whose career was threatened by an horrific double leg break in February 2010 inflicted by a tackle from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, is making the kind of impact that will soon see him being compared to fellow Welshman Gareth Bale if his progress continues.

 And you have to credit Wenger for putting his faith in the prodigiously talented youngster, who once looked destined for Old Trafford.   

Much has been said and written about the professor stealing a march on his rivals when he pulled off the standout signing of the summer with the spectacular £42.5 million capture of German superstar Mesut Özil.

But just as crucial for the Gunners was the business Wenger did five years ago when he persuaded the Cardiff City youngster to opt for a move to North London rather than the North West.

The Bluebirds’ youngest ever player at just 16 years and 124 days when he made his debut in 2007, Ramsey soon became one of the most sought after youngsters in Europe, attracting interest from Everton and Manchester United.

While United reportedly offered £5 million for him to be loaned back to Cardiff, it was the Gunners who secured Ramsey’s signature when Wenger matched that bid and promised to put him straight into his first team squad.

That crossroads in his career will give an extra edge to the showdown between defending champions Manchester United and this season’s pacesetters Arsenal on November 10. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Ramsey is a player with the world at his feet.

Familiar tweet this season from Aaron Ramsey

. . . a familiar tweet this season from Aaron Ramsey

FACT FILE: AARON RAMSEY 

:- Born 26 December 1990, he joined the Youth Academy at Cardiff City when he was eight years old.

:- He made his debut for the Bluebirds on the final day of the 2006/2007 season, when he came on as a substitute in a the final minute of a 1-0 defeat by Hull City. He was still 241 days short of his 17th birthday.

:- Signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2008 for £5 million.

:- Made his competitive debut for Arsenal in a Champions League qualifier against FC Twente on 13 August 2008

:- Given his first run out in the Premier League a month later against Blackburn Rovers.

:- His first goal for the Gunners came in a 5-2 Champions League win at Fenerbahce on 22 October 2008, making him the fifth youngest scorer in Champions League history.

 TITLE RACE: ROONEY v RAMSEY

While Aaron Ramsey has been the player whose outstanding early form has been arguably the biggest surprise of the season so far, even more spectacular has been the way Wayne Rooney has shrugged off doubts about his future at Old Trafford.

Rooney has a great record against the Gunners, a side he has enjoyed superb form against, ever since he burst onto the scene with that famous strike as a 16-year-old for Everton to become the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League. Not surprising that Wenger and Jose Mourinho both wanted to sign him in the summer. What top manager wouldn’t want to sign him?

Ramsey, meanwhile, also has form against United. In 2010/2011, he scored the winner at the Emirates. It came at the end of the season that celebrated his return from his career threatening injury, after signing a long-term contract with Arsenal.

There will be many other potential matchwinners on show next Sunday, with Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud both hitting the target on a regular basis. But Rooney v Ramsey at Old Trafford will be a fascinating showdown between two players at the top of their game.

HOW WAYNE IS STAKING HIS CLAIM TO BE UNITED’S NEXT LONG-TERM SKIPPER

Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes deserves enormous credit for standing by his former Everton protegee and helping the England striker rediscover his best form. Wayne Rooney looks lean, mean and determined to prove the critics wrong who have been too quick to write him off.

In fact it will be no surprise to see Moyes hand Rooney the captain’s armband, further underlining the new boss’s pre-season insistence that there is no way Wazza will be leaving United any time soon.

With the countdown under way to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Rooney has looked in menacing form and is hopefully destined to make an injury-free impact on a major international tournament for the first time. Meantime, he has been United’s most consistent performer and the main reason why the defending champions are still in  touch with race for the Premier League title.

Rooney has shown his leadership qualities by lifting his team mates during a difficult start to the season and with Patrice Evra and other senior players nearing the end of their United careers, the case for making him skipper is stronger than ever.

Given the captain’s armband on several occasions by Sir Alex Ferguson,Rooney has already had the honour of being captain for Moyes in the Capital One Cup win over Liverpool.

Meantime, his leadership skills will be needed against form team Arsenal, even if he is not the player who leads United out against the table-toppers.

 

Whether or not it was cynical ploy to discredit Mark Clattenburg, why Chelsea will almost certainly find themselves in the dock

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When it comes to tackling racism, Chelsea Football Club have a lot to learn – but that is not the reason there is a feeling within the game that the Premier League leaders have overstepped the mark in the Mark Clattenburg saga.

By destroying the reputation of one of the most experienced officials in the game with accusations that appear to be backed up by little evidence – and more than a suggestion of sour grapes after losing at home to Manchester United – the West London club have not only once again trashed football’s image, but their actions will have consequences.

ArseneWenger: Chelsea wrong to make Mark Clattenburg allegations public

Arsene Wenger: Chelsea wrong to make Mark Clattenburg allegations public

Arsene Wenger was first to question the way Chelsea publicly accused the referee of racially abusing John Obi Mikel during Sunday’s 3-2 defeat by declaring the accusations should have been dealt with privately. And Sir Alex Ferguson has weighed in by stating he is “convinced” the official is innocent

United’s boss insisted: “I don’t believe Mark Clattenburg would make any comments like that. I refuse to believe it. I think it is unthinkable in the modern climate. I just don’t believe it – simple as that. There is no way a referee would stoop to that, I am convinced of that.”

It has also emerged that Mikel and the Blues’ manager Roberto di Matteo allegedly breached protocol by storming into the referee’s room immediately after the match in which Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players. Under FA rules, there has to be a 30-minute “cooling down” period after a game. There can be little doubt their hasty reaction was fuelled by a sense of injustice.

A cynic would suggest the West London club have deliberately sidelined the referee, who has been stood down from officiating this weekend, because of their displeasure at the decisions he made in the dramatic contest that saw United inflict the home side’s first Premier League defeat of the season.

With all the other match officials who were able to hear the mic’d up ref  dismissing Chelsea’s claims, it is hard to see where any evidence will come from that will condemn Clattenburg. In the meantime, the 37-year-old’s reputation has arguably been damaged beyond repair and, as any lawyer will tell you, Chelsea’s failure to prove their allegations will surely dictate that the official must sue for libel.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are already in the dock after one of their own supporters was pictured appearing to make a monkey gesture at Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck during the midweek League Cup game. And the club is still defending themselves over their handling of the John Terry affair, refusing to strip their captain of the armband after he received a four match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

As for Blues boss Di Matteo, his response to the criticism from Wenger and Ferguson has been to declare: ‘It’s a free country where everybody has the freedom of speech. We’ll take into consideration what other people say and use it as a motivational tool for ourselves.’ What he may fail to realise is that many of their opponents will be driven by a desire to punish them for their selfish actions.

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Thierry Henry’s fairytale return for Arsenal is further proof that playing soccer in America is not the end of the road

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Thierry Henry is one of the Premiership's Greatest Ever goalscorers

Thierry Henry is one of the Premier League's Greatest Ever goalscorers

BY JOHN GUBBA

For anyone who doubted the wisdom of Arsenal’s re-signing of Thierry Henry, his dramatic matchwining return in the FA Cup against Leeds United tonight was the perfect answer.

Personally I found it hard to believe that anyone thought the Frenchman was too old at 34, simply because he has been playing for New York Red Bulls  in America’s MLS since quitting Barcelona and international duty with France in the summer of 2010.

On-loan during the winter break, it was a fairytale return when the iconic Gunner came off the bench and settled the third round tie at the Emirates with the only goal of the game. But this is not just a flash in the pan. Don’t be surprised if Henry continues to make a big impact during this surprise Premier League comeback.

Just like Paul Scholes coming out of retirement to help Manchester United, this is a story of a footballing genius who still has plenty to offer the beautiful game.

In the case of Henry I think it is unfair that English fans and critics wrote him off simply because he has been playing in the under-rated MLS. David Beckham has enjoyed success at AC Milan and extended his England career since he ‘retired’ to America. And Beckham’s Los Angeles team-mate Robbie Keane has been good enough to help the Republic of Ireland qualify for Euro 2012.

http://youtu.be/OQshXs6nINg

 

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January 9th, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Mick McCarthy absolutely right! Fans of the beautiful game don’t want to see football turned into a non-contact sport

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Mick McCarthy’s passionate defence of wronged midfielder Nenad Milijas is in the best interests of the beautiful game.

The Wolves player was sent off in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal despite winning the ball as McCarthy has clearly demonstrated.

But there is a lot more at stake here than a bad refereeing decision. We are talking about whether or not we want to kill the art of tackling.

While I am not advocating a return to the brutal days – when hardmen like Chopper Harris, Norman Hunter and Nobby Stiles ruled the roost – we must beware not to turn the game into a non contact sport.

McCarthy is absolutely right when he says: “I think the fabric of the British game is based on people tackling.”

And I agree whole-heartedly when the Wolves boss adds: “That’s why people come and watch because it’s exciting because people are tackled. It’s part of our game.”

Mick McCarthy points out the Milijas was first to the ball

Mick McCarthy points out the Milijas was first to the ball

 

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December 30th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Reality check for cocky City fans with delusions of grandeur is warning that Premier League title is long way from sure thing

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Let’s face it Manchester City are only still top of the Premier League because of that freak 6-1 win at Old Trafford back in October. And there are way too many people drawing premature conclusions based on that one match.

Any other result that day and champions Manchester United would now be in pole position. So just in case you have any doubts, this is a title race that has a long way to go and it is way to early for any club to be counting their chickens. I don’t care how much money they have.

Now that the cocky Blues have carelessly thrown away their unbeaten League run at Chelsea – how they collapsed from such a commanding position and  1-nil lead at Stamford Bridge to end with a 2-1 defeat was a real disaster – let’s see what they are really made of.

The headline says it all - City's bubble has burst

The headline says it all - City's bubble has burst. Now let's see what they are really made of . . .

For a club that has won just one trophy in 35 years it is no exaggeration to say their fans are getting carried away with delusions of grandeur because their owners have convinced them they are destined to buy the title.

By my reckoning there are still six clubs capable of winning the Premier League this season – and for the first time in years, no one can predict with any certainty which of those clubs will make up the top four.

What I can promise you is that nothing inspires United boss Sir Alex Ferguson more than being written off by the ridiculous media mafia who have been waiting for 25 years to see the Scottish manager fail.

I am also of the opinion that young Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has a lot more life left him at the Bridge than those same media prophets of doom would like us to believe. And what are those same critics saying now about the prospects of Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, the manager the press pathetically wrote off after their 8-2 demolition at Old Trafford.

The truth is no League title is won or lost in a single match while any outcome is still mathematically possible – and impressive City manager Roberto Mancini to his great credit is the first to recognise that fact. Make no mistake there will be many twists and turns before the final weekend of the season. Meanwhile what are the odds on City making it back to back defeats against Arsenal on Sunday?

http://youtu.be/PPjfet5ySJM

 

 

 

 

 

The English Premier League is best on the planet and football fans are so fickle – just ask Robin Van Persie and Arsene Wenger!

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BY JOHN GUBBA

To all those fickle football fans out there who think one bad result or two is the end of the world, just take a look at the way Arsenal have bounced back from that 8-2 demolition by Manchester United.

Led by Robin Van Persie, the most outstanding striker of the season so far, Saturday’s remarkable 5-3 triumph at Chelsea was the Gunners’ eighth win in nine matches. So what do those ridiculous fans who were baying for the head of Arsene Wenger have to say for themselves now?

    Twitter-ific - Robin Van Persie is the Premier League's Top Gun

Twitter-ific - RVP's hat-trick at Chelsea took tally to 28 goals in 27 PL matches

When Manchester United crashed 6-1 at home to neighbours City it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Premier League. But does that make Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a bunch of no-hopers overnight? Of course it doesn’t – and that’s the point.

City boss Roberto Mancini won a lot of respect from United fans when he refused to crow about the way his side destroyed the Reds at Old Trafford. And the Italian knows only too well that there is a long way to go to win the toughest League in the world.

The truth is football fans in England are so lucky to have the Premier League – the most exciting and popular domestic competition on the planet. It will be fascinating to see if anyone can stop City’s mega millionaires becoming champions. But you can bet your bottom dollar there will be many more twists and turns before the destination of the silverware is decided in May.

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Kean villain to hero and Wenger back in firing line – pure madness

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Villain or hero? It all depends when you ask the question

Villain or hero? all depends when you're asking

BY JOHN GUBBA

It is one of my pet hates: the fickleness of the average football fan – a symptom of the modern game that never ceases to amaze.

Before this afternoon’s match against Arsenal, Blackburn fans were campaigning for the sacking of manager Steve Kean, his team rock-bottom without a win in their opening four games. A couple of hours later Kean is a hero and those same fans are celebrating a remarkable 4-3 win at Ewood Park. Most pleasing for Kean, who has always asked fans to judge him once he has built his own team, was to see his new signing Yakubu score twice and be named man of the match.

With Kean out of the firing line for the time being at least, the spotlight is back on Arsene Wenger, who was predicting his side can still challenge on all fronts before kick-off. On the back of that 8-2 thrashing in their previous away match in the Premier League, the knives are out for Arsenal’s greatest ever manager. Why do we have to be constantly demanding football managers are sacked when they lose a couple of matches.

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UNITED HUMILIATE THE GUNNERS AND STEAL CITY’S THUNDER, BUT IT IS TIME FOR FICKLE ARSENAL FANS TO STAND BY WENGER

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When Manchester City thrashed Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane, Roberto Mancini’s men thought they were heading for  the international break as leaders of the Premier League. But United’s remarkable 8-2 humiliation of Arsenal trumped their noisy neighbours’ in majestic fashion – and has put Arsene Wenger in the firing line.

It was a stunning day of football in the most exciting football league in the world. And it was an indication of the changing face of English football. The reality is that Manchester is now more dominant than ever boasting two outstanding teams, while North London’s fallen heroes have slipped behind in spectacular fashion.

Ruthless - but Sir Alex Ferguson still paid tribute to Wenger's 15 years at Arsenal

Ruthless - but Sir Alex Ferguson still paid tribute to Wenger's 15 years at Arsenal

But do not make the mistake of jumping on the band wagon of turning on Arsenal’s beleaguered manager Arsene Wenger.

While Harry Redknapp’s Spurs are rock bottom and point-less having played a game less than the rest at the bottom, Wenger is the boss under the full glare of the lynch-mob who want him out of the Arsenal hot-seat. And that is so short-sighted it could push the Gunners into an era of decline that could undo all the Frenchman’s outstanding work.

Arsenal’s decline can be traced back to the departure in April 2007 of of vice-chairman David Dein, the man who appointed Wenger and was his right-hand man when it came to signing new players.

The club is in turmoil because of the behind-the-scenes power struggle between Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke for control of the club. Wenger has made some outstanding signings in the past and could do so again in the future if he has the right support of the board.

United's most impressive win in Premier League history

United's most impressive Premier League win courtesy of a Wayne Rooney hat-trick, a glorious double from Ashley Young and a goal apiece from Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ji Sung Park

As Fergie is proving by putting together another outstanding team of youngsters who could turn out to be his greatest side ever, you do not have to go out and sign ready made superstars to build a winning team.

But you do need the right support from your board and chief executive – and in that department do not underestimate the outstanding contribution of David Gill, who has made a sterling contribution in helping to keep the established stars at Old Trafford.

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DAVID DE GEA: DODGY HAIR, GREAT KEEPER . . . AND HOW ABOUT SOME RESPECT FOR GREAT GOONER ARSENE WENGER

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Hair-raising goalkeeper or a cut above the rest?

Hair-raising goalkeeper or a cut above the rest?

 

Arsenal's best ever manager

Arsenal's best ever manager

BY JOHN GUBBA

On the eve of the second weekend of the Premier League season, I wonder how many football fans have been jumping on the band-wagon and disrespecting rookie keeper David De Gea and veteran boss Arsene Wenger?

I make no apologies for stating that no breed is more fickle than the average football fan . . . and the abuse dished out for Manchester United’s 20 year-old goalkeeping protege and Arsenal’s best-ever manager is nothing short of scandalous.

It was great to hear United’s 1968 European Cup winner Alex Stepney spring to the defence of De Gea earlier this week when he declared: “At 20 years of age he can only learn and get better. And when I say get better, he’s blooming brilliant now. He can reach the standards of Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar.”

The young Spaniard may have gifted Manchester City a couple of soft goals in the Community Shield at Wembley and then allowed a weak shot to go under his body in his Premier League debut at West Brom. But United won both matches and writing off the kid who cost £18 million after one week is pure madness.

Now and then: Alex Stepney standing by David De Gea

Alex Stepney standing by David De Gea

Every goalkeeper who ever played has dropped a clanger or two. But it’s how you come back after you make mistakes that separates the ones with potential from the greats. Chris Smalling spoke for everyone at United today when he said: “He has trained really well this week. You can see his agility and kicking. He will be a great goalkeeper for us.”

Personally, I have no doubt that De Gea will prove to be one of the world’s top goalkeepers. I just wish he would do the decent thing and get rid of that dodgy facial hair.

Meanwhile, the criticism Arsene Wenger has been getting at Arsenal is even more ridiculous. The departure of Cesc Fabregas and the immenent loss of Sami Nasri, following six trophy-less seasons has put the Gunners boss under increasing pressure from supporters. But the Frenchmen who has worked miracles and turned ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ into one of Europe’s most attractive teams deserves more respect.

David Dein, the man who took Wenger to North London in 1996 and urges fans to stand by their man, told the BBC: “People talk about ‘Has his time finished at the club?’ That’s a very dangerous thing to say because it’s easy to get rid of people and then what?

“People talk about buying players. Well, you’ve got to get players who are better than the ones you’ve got at the moment.”

He added: “I don’t know why he hasn’t bought at the moment, only time will tell. Maybe he thinks that this current squad has got the ability to win trophies. Only time will tell whether he’s right or wrong but I think it’s very early to say, ‘He’s lost the plot.’ He hasn’t lost the plot.”

Manchester United fans used to give Arsene Wenger more stick than anyone – but he won a lot of new fans at Old Trafford when he was sent off for kicking a plastic bottle and ended up on the roof of the dugout. Pure class from Arsenal’s living legend.

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