Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Manchester United are the untouchables - admits Wenger

Arsene Wenger once led a team of self-styled invincibles to a season without defeat, but the Frenchman has conceded that Sir Alex Ferguson's current Manchester United side could be the new "untouchables".

United sit two points clear of Liverpool with a game in hand at the Barclays Premier League summit, with Arsenal a worrying 12 points off the pace in fifth.

Wenger, whose Gunners side went unbeaten in 2003/04, is refusing to give up on having a say in the title race but admits the Red Devils are currently some distance clear of the pack.

The two-goal return of Croatia striker Eduardo after a year out in last night's 4-0 FA Cup fourth-round replay win over Cardiff gave Arsenal fans reason for cheer, but Wenger has warned that long-time rivals United will take some stopping.

"We are on a very strong run at the moment and we have promised to give everything until the last day of the season but at the moment Manchester United look untouchable," confessed the Arsenal boss.

"They are 12 points ahead of us and they have a game against Fulham which they will certainly win. If they win that they are 15 points in front and that means they need to lose five games.

"Let us say they lose one against us, that still leaves four. They still need to lose four other games, which they haven't done yet this season.

"But our basic target is to get into the Champions League and therefore the championship remains a priority."

Wenger, meanwhile, told Cardiff that the trouncing meted out to them at the Emirates could be a good thing for their promotion ambitions.

The Frenchman believes that talented Championship sides can often get sidetracked in the knockout competitions to the detriment of their league form.

"Look at the table. They are, I think, fourth with a few games in hand. For them it is better they go out of the FA Cup," he said.

"I saw it a few years ago when we battled with Sheffield United when they had (Phil) Jagielka and (Michael) Tonge in a very good team.

"There were seasons when they did very well in the FA Cup and the League Cup and in the end they always failed to come up because it was very demanding to do both.

"In the Championship there are 24 teams so there are a lot of games. This is better for them."

Bluebirds manager Dave Jones, who guided the club to last year's final, was disappointed at a performance he rated as one his side's poorest of the season.

"The fans paid good money to come and watch us and we didn't do them justice or ourselves justice," said Jones.

"Anyone who wore a yellow shirt out there can't stake a claim to anything. I'm not taking anything away from Arsenal because they sniffed that we weren't at it and went for the jugular.

"We have to learn from this and bounce back. Hopefully they will react to what has happened here."

Jones also joined in the unanimous praise for Eduardo, who earned several ovations from the crowd before leaving the field with a slight hamstring twinge.

"I'm pleased for any player that comes back from an horrendous injury like his," added Jones.

"We've all seen situations like that in football; I had an injury that finished my career as a player. "It's a long road back so it's fantastic to see a player come back like that."

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