Arsene Wenger backs Arsenal team selection: 'I have no regrets'
MANCHESTER -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that he had no regrets about his team selection after they suffered a 3-2 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday, which dented their title challenge.
The Frenchman picked Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez in his starting lineup -- leaving Olivier Giroud on the bench until the 63rd minute, when they were 2-1 down -- and Arsenal looked exposed defensively, while not offering enough attacking threat. The defeat meant that they have fallen five points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City.
"I've no regrets," Wenger said, when asked about the team he picked. "I'm convinced that Welbeck, Walcott and Sanchez can defend well when it's needed. I don't believe the strikers were at fault for the goals.
"We have to bounce back and not feel sorry for ourselves. They defended well. They stopped us with little free kicks in the middle of the pitch. From the middle of the pitch, we were not dangerous enough.
"Of course we have time [to win the title]. It's still possible, but the answer will have to come quick and strong."
Arsenal host Swansea City on Wednesday night, before going away to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur -- who are three points ahead of them -- on Saturday lunchtime, which is why the response has to be swift. This latest defeat continued their poor record at Old Trafford and was often heated, emotionally, on both sides.
There was a bizarre sight when United manager Louis van Gaal flopped to the ground to make a point to the officials, as the Dutchman appeared to think Sanchez went down too easily. Wenger, though, refused to be drawn into criticism, saying: "You will have to ask him because, if I comment, afterwards you will say I am a bitter loser, which I am in fact."
Van Gaal apologised for that incident, however. He was far happier with his team's performance though, saying that the young men's displays -- including two from 18-year-old Marcus Rashford -- were befitting of Manchester United's traditions.
Wenger, however, played that down. "Let's not go overboard -- they still had a few million on the pitch, starting from De Gea," the Arsenal manager said. "The player who is surprising for me, talent-wise, is Rashford. His intelligence in the box is great. He could be a very positive surprise for Man United."
Although many of Wenger's senior players let him down with their failure to shine or take responsibility as leaders, he refused to scold them publicly, saying that he needed time to assess what happened.
"It was a difficult game for us," he said. "We struggled to be dangerous, it's true. They defended very well. I want to analyse the game again to see why."
Arindam is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @ARejSport.