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English Premiership

Fergie exit takes pressure off refs – Wenger

ARSENE-FLOPLONDON, England, November 9 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says that the referee for his side’s game at Manchester United will feel less pressure now that Alex Ferguson is no longer in the opposition dug-out.

Sunday’s Premier League encounter at Old Trafford will mark the first time that the two teams have met with someone other than Ferguson in charge of United since August 1986, following the 71-year-old’s retirement in May.

Wenger endured several defeats at Ferguson’s hands and he has suggested that the long-serving Scot’s presence may have put pressure on match officials to favour United.

When asked how Ferguson’s absence would affect matters on Sunday, the Frenchman replied: “That is a question you shouldn’t ask me, but the referees.

“Every year there is a company who makes the table reasoned without the referees’ mistakes, so check that.”

Wenger added, with a smile: “I think the referees were absolutely relaxed and happy to go there.”

He went on: “I expect the referees to make the right decisions. I never have preconceived ideas.

“It is down to the referee to make the right decisions, to protect the players and to give the free-kicks you deserve.

“There (at Old Trafford) pressure comes as well from the crowd when they go for every ball and put the referee under pressure, and that is a bit more in the north than in the south.

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“You know that when you go to Sunderland the crowd plays every ball, when you go to Everton the crowd plays every ball. Then in London, the crowd is a bit more relaxed.”

Arsenal go into the game as the Premier League leaders and could move 11 points clear of United if they defeat the reigning champions.

Back-to-back victories over Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund have strengthened the London club’s self-belief and Wenger says that his side will go to Manchester intending to dominate the game.

“Yes, we believe we can get a result,” he said. “We go there, like we go everywhere, to control the game and to win the game.

“We still think the best way to win at Old Trafford is to control the game, which means take the ball, keep the ball and have more possession than they do.”

Aaron Ramsey continued his stunning form by scoring the only goal of Arsenal’s mid-week win away to Dortmund in the Champions League and United manager David Moyes has revealed that he came close to signing the Welsh midfielder during his time at Everton.

United and Everton both had £5 million ($8 million, 6 million euros) bids for Ramsey accepted by Cardiff City in 2008 and Moyes believed he was coming to Goodison Park, only for the then 17-year-old to elect to join Arsenal.

“I was very close to signing Aaron. I had him and his family in my house, but Arsenal beat me to it,” Moyes told reporters ahead of the Arsenal game.

“He has played really well. He now sees himself as one of their really important players and has not let them down with the goals he has scored.”

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Moyes also claimed that United turned down an opportunity to sign Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid during the close season before the German playmaker moved to Arsenal in a £42.4 million club-record deal.

“We weren’t close to buying him,” said Moyes.

“Something was mooted but we had Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney. It wasn’t something we required at that time and we were looking at different positions.”

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