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Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 00:02 UK

Wenger rueful after 'worst night'

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Wenger disappointed by manner of defeat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the Champions League semi-final defeat by Manchester United was the worst night of his career.

United beat Arsenal 3-1 in the second leg and 4-1 on aggregate as the Champions League trophy again eluded Wenger and the London club.

"It is the most disappointing night of my career," said the Frenchman.

"I felt the fans were really up for a big night and to disappoint people who stand behind the team so much hurts."

United added to their first-leg lead through Ji-Sung Park after eight minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a 40-yard free-kick three minutes later to all but end Arsenal's challenge.

Ronaldo added a second goal after the break, while a late Robin van Persie penalty for the Gunners - after Darren Fletcher was deemed to have fouled Cesc Fabregas - was little consolation for Wenger.

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"The most difficult thing is that we do not have a feeling that we played a semi-final of the Champions League," conceded Wenger.

"We were out of it after 10 minutes and we had 80 minutes to play against a team who defend well and wait to counter-attack. We were in a position where we had to take all the gamble after having started quite well.

"I must say we can only look at ourselves. It is very disappointing to fight to get such a long way and to give the game away like we did.

"We do not want to blame anyone individually. In three minutes we conceded two goals and it was too much.

"We were ready for a fight and the game but after 10 minutes it was impossible. We kept going and we did as much as we could. We played with pride and desire but of course some part of the belief had gone."

He added: "Manchester United over the two games deserved to go through.

"It could have been over after the first game. We had a good opportunity to come back but overall they were the better side."

Wenger called Fletcher's red card "harsh" and said referee Roberto Rosetti "had a very bad game".

But this will be the fourth season on the trot that Arsenal have failed to win a trophy and Wenger, despite providing his unyielding belief in his youthful side, said he would have to take stock on why his side came up short.

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In addition to the defeat by United, the Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage by Chelsea and are currently fourth in the Premier League.

"I need to take some distance from this season," stated Wenger.

"We are on a consistent run of 21 league games unbeaten but recently in games where it mattered, like Chelsea and Manchester United, we couldn't win and that, of course, needs thinking about.

"It's easy to say we maybe need a bit of experience. I'm convinced that we have the quality and we will continue to develop.

"If you look at the average age of the team it is still very young and to reach the level we have deserves a lot of credit.

"But we were caught by a team that has an art to kill and take advantage of every mistake you make. I believe Ronaldo gave us a tough time."

There is sure to be speculation over the futures of some of Arsenal's stars following another trophy-less season but when asked if he could keep his squad together, Wenger added: "Why not?"



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see also
Man Utd seek Fletcher card U-turn
05 May 09 |  Europe
Arsenal 1-3 Man Utd (agg 1-4)
05 May 09 |  Europe
Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal
29 Apr 09 |  Europe


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