Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Wenger: No one close to United

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal trail Manchester United by 21 points
Arsene Wenger's Arsenal trail Manchester United by 21 points

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Manchester City's drop in consistency had a bigger impact on the Barclays Premier League title race than just the goals of Robin van Persie.

Wenger allowed Van Persie to be sold to Manchester United last summer, in a lucrative £24million deal which City boss Roberto Mancini believes swung the balance of power back to Old Trafford. However, the French coach believes the way United have pulled clear this season is not simply down to the contribution of one player.

"You can say that Robin had an impact, but the other teams are not as close this year like Man City, who were always top last year. This year it was one-way traffic," said Wenger. "The difference is that City has dropped off."

He added: "United lost only on goal difference last year and if QPR did not know that they were safe, they (United) would have won it last year.

"The game (against Manchester City) finished later. They (QPR) knew they were safe in added time.

"Don't you think that they knew? It is a kind of relief and could have contributed to the fact that they lost in the final two or three minutes."

A personal phone call from United boss Sir Alex Ferguson to Wenger helped push through the deal for Van Persie.

The Arsenal manager, however, is adamant the club was put in an almost no-win situation because the Holland international did not want to sign a new deal.

"The real issue was that Robin had only one year to go and he didn't want to extend," said Wenger. "You would face the same problem this year. Even if he had an exceptional season, he would be free, he will go somewhere else - and then people still say, 'why did you let him go'?"

Arsenal trail United by 21 points heading into the final four matches of what has been another frustrating Premier League campaign chasing Champions League qualification rather than mounting a long-overdue sustained title challenge.

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