Wenger: United won't crumble

January 22, 2007

Arsene Wenger believes Manchester United are not about to see their title drive 'crumble' despite Arsenal's dramatic stoppage-time victory over the Barclays Premiership leaders.

United missed the chance to extend their advantage at the top of the table to nine points over Chelsea, who had lost at Liverpool on Saturday, when they allowed a 1-0 lead to be overturned during the closing stages at the Emirates Stadium last night.

Substitute Robin van Persie - who is set for several weeks on the sidelines after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his right foot - cancelled out Wayne Rooney's early second-half strike with just seven minutes left, before captain Thierry Henry powered in a header to snatch victory deep into stoppage time.

Despite their defeat in north London, United are still well clear of the chasing pack.

Wenger maintains the Red Devils remain in the driving seat to break Chelsea's grip on the Premiership crown.

He said: 'Of course Manchester United will still be strong challengers for the title.

'This will be a big disappointment for Manchester United - but do not expect them to crumble because of it.

'But it is good for the interest of the Premiership, because everybody still has a chance.

'We have maybe less than all the others, but will just try to fight to win every game.'

Wenger felt the desire of Sir Alex Ferguson's men to try to run down the clock came back to haunt them during the closing stages.

The Arsenal manager said: 'They wanted so much to kill the time that it turned against them as well, because they lost a bit of their game.

'With 10 minutes to go Manchester United were maybe champions, but at the end of the game you cannot say that.

'It will open it up for everybody.

'For us and Liverpool a little bit less, but you never know.'

Wenger feels his men will have taken a great deal from snatching victory, which extended their fine recent form of just one defeat in 13 games.

He said: 'It was a test of character, resilience and togetherness, qualities which are very important for the development of the team.

'This team is developing into young, hungry lions, lead well by Henry.'

The Gunners take on north-London rivals Tottenham in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup next week, and are also in the fourth round of the FA Cup as well as the knockout stages of the Champions League.

'Now we come to a period where every game matters,' Wenger added. 'Our target is to sustain that run.'

United boss Ferguson, meanwhile, fully expects his men to swiftly bounce back from what was only their third defeat of the Premiership season - two of those at the hands of the Gunners.

'Teams at the top always drop points on the run-in. It happens - but how you cope is important,' he said.

'Only true champions come out and show their worth - and I expect us to do that.'

Ferguson vowed his side would learn from their late capitulation - and use it as a spur for the rest of the campaign.

'When I look at it we have some important away games to come and this will be good for us - we will not be making the same mistake,' the United boss said.

'We have a game less (to play) and are a goal better off (than Chelsea). So it is not all doom and gloom.'