Sun, Jan 23, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Ferguson and Wenger to end bickering

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger have traded insults since the Gunners' 49-game league unbeaten streak was ended by the Red Devils in October

AP , LONDONAP, FRANKFURT, GERMANYAP, LEEDS AND LONDON, ENGLAND

An undated file combo photograph of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, left, and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who promised to end their public mud-slinging on Thursday.

PHOTO: EPA

Feud, what feud?

A day after being ordered to end his public squabbling with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger said Friday he wasn't to blame.

The two have traded insults in the media since Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-0 at Old Trafford in October to snap the Gunners' 49-game league unbeaten streak.

Wenger accused Reds striker Ruud van Nistelrooy of being a "cheat" and Ferguson reportedly was pelted with pizza and soup during a fracas in the stadium tunnel.

Since then, Ferguson and Wenger have continued to snipe at each other, raising concerns there could be more trouble on an off the field when the team meets at Highbury on Feb. 1.

At a news conference ahead of Sunday's game against Newcastle, Wenger said he had done nothing to further antagonize Ferguson.

"Since then, for me, nothing happened. What did I say since then?" he told reporters at Arsenal's training ground.

But Wenger sidestepped questions about whether he would shake Ferguson's hand at the upcoming game. He pointed out the two had met at a League Cup quarterfinal game at Old Trafford Dec. 1 when the Reds again won to knock the Gunners out of the competition.

"I did shake his hand that night," Wenger said. "I don't make any comment on that story so why should I talk about things that are artificial."

The Arsenal manager said he preferred to talk about trying to catch Chelsea in the Premier League. The Gunners are 10 points behind the Blues, but Wenger said he had not given up hope of retaining the title.

``I am not at that point,'' he said. "I can understand the thinking from outside but football doesn't work like that. I just feel we have to take the Chelsea situation as a challenge.

"OK, they are playing well, they are winning games. Let's make it as tough as we can for them and get the best out of us. Let's go as close as we can and, you never know."

While Arsenal went through last season's 38-game campaign without a loss, Chelsea has been beaten just once in 23 games this term and still has both Arsenal and third-place Manchester United to play. Now Wenger hopes that Jose Mourinho's Blues will slip up.

"Football is so surprising. Sometimes what looks like a non-vulnerable machine becomes quickly vulnerable in one week," he said. "I remember last year when we lost to Chelsea in the Champions League and against Manchester United in the FA Cup and were losing to Liverpool in the first half. It looked like we couldn't play football."

Arsenal still went on to win the league by 11 points.

"It is possible [to catch Chelsea], but they are in a tranquil position and so everybody would now bet on them," Wenger said. "Our job is to make it as difficult as possible for them."

Bayern Munich kicked off the second half of the Bundesliga season by rolling past Hamburger SV 3-0 on Friday to open a three-point lead over Schalke.

Claudio Pizarro scored in the first half, and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Roy Makaay added goals after the break to seal Bayern's win.

Schalke could catch up on points if it beats defending champion Werder Bremen on Saturday. Bayern has 37 points and a better goal difference.

In snowy conditions, Hamburg remained winless in Munich since 1982, when Felix Magath, now Bayern's coach, was Hamburg's big star.

Already without suspended Michael Ballack, Bayern lost Bixente Lizarazu less than 10 minutes into the game to a pulled hamstring. Lizarazu returned to Bayern this winter after spending half a season in Marseille but will now be out for two weeks.

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