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Arsene Wenger urges Arsenal to respond to FA Cup defeat

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger
Wenger will focus on the league while Ferguson can still win the Treble

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger attempted to find the positives after watching his side crash out of a third competition in the space of two weeks.

The Gunners' 2-0 defeat by Manchester United in the FA Cup came hot on the heels of Champions League elimination and a Carling Cup final defeat.

"It's a massive task but the challenge we have is exciting," said Wenger, with the league now his only target.

"We are used to being questioned. We have to show we are strong enough."

Arsenal are searching for their first silverware since the 2005 FA Cup but a disastrous fortnight has seen them stumble to a shock loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final before losing to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Wenger said the after-effects of a draining 3-1 defeat by a superb Barcelona side had been a factor in his team's display at Old Trafford.

"Subconsciously I feel the disappointment of Tuesday [against Barcelona] played a part in the game," said Wenger.

"You could see something has gone, not in our effort or attitude, but confidence-wise.

"But I don't feel like the season is slipping away. I believe we can do it. It is a good test for us now to show we can regroup and show the mental strength and togetherness quickly.

"We will have to answer this kind of question in the next two or three weeks. We have to show we have an answer."

The Gunners have replaced defending champions Chelsea as United's main challengers in the league, trailing the Red Devils by three points with a game in hand.


And Wenger said the absence of any distractions could prove to be an advantage for his side in the run-in.

"We now have the advantage of being able to recover physically and mentally as we only have the league to focus on," he said.

"It can be an advantage if we deal with the problem mentally."

Wenger was left ruing his side's finishing, with the outstanding Edwin van der Sar saving from Robin van Persie in the first half and denying Laurent Koscielny, Marouane Chamakh and Tomas Rosicky after the interval.

"The team had a good attitude and gave everything but United were clinical in front of goal and we were not," said Wenger.

"We have to recover, focus on the league and make sure we bounce back.

"It was a game that we looked to be in control of but we put them in a position where they like to be - counter attacking with their quality strikers."

For United the Treble is still on. Marseille visit Old Trafford in the Champions League last-16 on Tuesday with the two sides locked at 0-0 after the first leg.

United striker Rooney sympathised with the Gunners' after their recent run but admitted being knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League could help the London club in the league.

"You don't know how they will respond. It's obviously been a tough 10 days for them, going out of three competitions but we know they will be fresh now for the Premier League games and won't have to focus on other games like we will," Rooney told BBC Radio 5 live.

Wayne Rooney celebrates with Javier Hernandez
Rooney continued his goalscoring run with United's second goal

"In some ways it's good for them. We just have to concentrate on our own games."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson made a host of changes to his squad with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes both on the bench against Arsenal, indicating they are likely to start agaist Marseille.

Ferguson explained: "I couldn't risk Scholes and Giggs because of Tuesday's game.

"That is such an important game for the club and if you look at the injuries in midfield I had to come up with a plan or an idea to utilise our energy."

The solution involved advanced roles for Brazilian full-backs Rafael and Fabio and neither youngster looked out of place.

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia returned from a dislocated ankle and significant ligament damage suffered against Rangers in the Champions League in September.

"I am very pleased with Valencia's return," said Ferguson, who brought the Equador winger on for the second half.

"It was a fantastic performance [by Valencia]. The boy is an absolutely brilliant player and he calmed us down in possession of the ball.

"He took the ball all the time and has got great balance, an awareness and great speed."

Valencia was a major source of ammunition as Rooney scored 34 goals last term and the England striker was delighted to welcome his team-mate back.

"I can't tell you how good it is to see him back out there," said Rooney, who scored his ninth goal of the season moments after Valencia's introduction.

"It was Antonio's first game back after six months out and he looked like he'd never been away.

"It's fantastic for him and fantastic for us to have him back and playing the way he did."

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see also
Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal
12 Mar 11 |  FA Cup
Ferguson blanks media after match
06 Mar 11 |  Man Utd
Ferguson ref rant 'unacceptable'
03 Mar 11 |  Man Utd
League is priority, says Wenger
02 Mar 11 |  FA Cup

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