x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson impressed by Arsenal's intensity in draw

Both managers acknowledge honours even a fair outcome from clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Theo Walcott was on the scoresheet for Arsenal.
Theo Walcott was on the scoresheet for Arsenal.

LONDON // A reaction, perhaps, was inevitable. After the emotion of wrapping up a 20th league title on Monday, it was always likely to be difficult for Manchester United to raise themselves for their final four games of the season.

The lure of breaking the record of 95 points set by Chelsea in 2004/05, for all Sir Alex Ferguson and various players talked about it, just was not that great. That lack of edge told, particularly early on, against an Arsenal side motivated both by the desire to qualify for the Champions League and, perhaps, by the vague mood of hostility surrounding the return to the Emirates of Robin van Persie.

Ferguson, the United manager, denied that his side had lacked focus. "I think that Arsenal set off at a fantastic pace," he said. "There were lot of tackles. It was very aggressive. The referee couldn't keep up."

Arsenal, certainly, snapped and snarled far more than has been usual but there was also a sense of United inviting pressure.

A draw means that the record is now beyond them and the last three games of the season will be a matter only of professional pride.

After going ahead through an offside Theo Walcott after two minutes, Arsenal were pegged back by a 43rd-minute Van Persie penalty after he had been fouled by Bacary Sagna as he chased down a weak back pass from the full-back.

"It was a game that was very intense, two teams giving absolutely everything to win," said Wenger.

"A draw was a fair result, given the chances on both sides. I believe in the first half we were on top. It was disappointing to concede the equaliser the way we did.

"It put us in position in the second half in which we had to open ourselves up for the counter-attack and we could have lost the game."

Tomas Rosicky fired narrowly wide and Santi Cazorla had a shot parried by David De Gea, while Ryan Giggs, set free by a sumptuous ball from Wayne Rooney, had an effort deflected wide, but neither side could find a winner.

The point leaves Arsenal fourth, having played a game more than both third-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Tottenham, but they would qualify for the Uefa Champions League if they win their three remaining games.

"There's no room for dropping points but it's the same for the other teams as well," said Wenger.

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