Belfast Telegraph

Evra: Show us your trophy, Arsenal

Manchester United's Patrice Evra has sparked a potentially explosive Old Trafford clash on Monday by launching a withering attack on Arsenal.

Although the Gunners travel north as Premier League leaders, they do so with major question marks to answer about their ability to survive an entire campaign as front-runners.

It is five years since Arsenal won a trophy of any description; the 2005 FA Cup Final victory over United at the Millennium Stadium and six since the 'Invincibles' were crowned champions.

Even this term they have been beaten three times on home soil and were the only English team to qualify as runners-up for the Champions League knockout phase, offering a potential last-16 tie with favourites Barcelona, who dumped them out of last season's competition.

Such form has not escaped Evra's attention.

And, in an interview with Canal+, the 29-year-old did not hold back in his criticisms.

“For me, Arsenal is a football training centre,” he declared.

“You watch the match, you enjoy it, but are you going to win a title afterwards? That's what people remember.

“It has been five years since they won anything and for a big club like Arsenal, that is a crisis.

“We can lose against them on Monday, but at the end of the day, what is there [for Arsenal]? There is nothing. There are no trophies, there is nothing.”

Indeed, Evra contradicted the assessment of team-mate Nani, who claimed earlier this week that Arsenal were now the main danger to United's title aspirations.

Having battled with Chelsea for the ultimate honour since he arrived at Old Trafford from Monaco five years ago, Evra sees no reason to train his sights on anyone else.

“Our real enemy is Chelsea,” he said. “We are more concerned with their results than those of Arsenal, even if we know Arsenal are a great team who can beat Chelsea, us or anyone.

“When we play against Arsenal, it is really fun.

“They are a team that plays football who will not come to Old Trafford with 11 men behind the ball.

“We also play football, but the difference is that we also have strength.

“Sometimes they cannot kill off matches. We are more efficient.”

Whether Sir Alex Ferguson will welcome such provocative words from a senior player is open to debate. United's encounters with Arsenal have never been short of added spice, with the tunnel confrontation between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira at Highbury, Martin Keown's spat with Ruud van Nistelrooy and the mass confrontation at Old Trafford in 1990 that led to both sides being deducted points amongst the most memorable incidents.

At the very least Evra has offered Wenger an extra motivational tool as he looks to end a run of five matches without a win against United, two of which were at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger acknowledged the damning words.

“He gave you some good stuff to make it all hot before the game,” he said. “We are guided by the way we want to play football and not by the statements of anybody who plays against us. Personally, I believe if you are a big player you always respect your opponent and that is what we try to do.

“We do not want to go into any unneeded talking before a game like that. We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation before a game. We are motivated by the desire to win the game and by the quality of the football we want to play.”

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