Wenger: We must bounce back better
Arsene Wenger believes mental strength will be the decisive factor as Arsenal and Manchester United each look to bounce back from disappointing defeats in their FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
Arsenal crashed out of Europe to Barcelona in midweek, which followed on from their shock Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham at Wembley. Meanwhile, United's grip on the Premier League lead has loosened after losses at Chelsea and Liverpool.
The clubs are both still in the hunt for multiple trophies but they stand in each other's way in both a grinding Premier League title race and the more immediate task of progressing to a Wembley FA Cup semi-final.
Another loss so soon after the others could bring about talk of a full-blown form slump for either team so Wenger is well aware of the importance to respond to the setbacks with victory at Old Trafford.
"At the moment the two teams have a little disappointment with results recently, so it is still the one who deals with that the best who can come out on top,'' Wenger said. "Manchester United lost two games, we just lost two [big games] as well, so it is how well we deal with that which will be certainly vital.''
With United still to visit Arsenal in the Premier League, Saturday's tie adds the chance to deliver a psychological blow ahead of that fixture. Arsenal lost 1-0 on their trip to Old Trafford on December 13, but have not been beaten in 11 league matches since, winning eight. The Gunners had chances to get a positive result from that encounter, with midfielder Samir Nasri claiming United were "scared'' of what Arsenal could do if they tried to play an open game. Wenger expects United to focus on what they feel is needed to get the job done.
"They always play always against us with a very tight midfield, try to put pressure on us from midfield, and [in December] they had only [Wayne] Rooney up front, so I think they always set up against us to defend well,'' the Arsenal boss said. "However, I wouldn't say they are scared. They have no reason to be scared because they have enough experience. They are always have a realistic approach to the game.''
Wenger added: "At home they score more goals than before, and you feel they are still a dangerous side - when they get in the final third they can score goals.''
Victory would bring relief to either club's manager after a testing couple of weeks. In addition to their recent defeats, Wenger (UEFA) and Sir Alex Ferguson (FA) have found themselves in hot water over comments about referees. Wenger acknowledged Ferguson will be just as eager as he is to move on from their recent dramas with victory and a semi-final trip to Wembley.
"When you are a football player you want to win. Ferguson will want to win the game, I will want to win the game,'' he said. "My real problem is to get the team back with positive vibes, and for us the game on Saturday is important on that front.''
Meanwhile, Ferguson turned the tables when asked whether he felt sympathy for Wenger in light of his punishment for the same offence that led the United boss to call a media blackout last weekend.
"I have sympathy for myself. I didn't have an easy week myself,'' he said. "But when you get the bad moments, you have to recover. You never go through a season where everything is rosy and this has happened a few times. It is just another day in the history of Manchester United. There are a lot of challenges ahead for the rest of the season. We have big opportunities.''
United will be without up to ten players, Nani and Rio Ferdinand among the injured, although Nemanja Vidic returns from suspension. Arsenal, meanwhile, have Wojciech Szczesny and Cesc Fabregas among their unavailable players.