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Rediff.com  » Sports » Arsenal's young Gunners repay Wenger's faith, eventually

Arsenal's young Gunners repay Wenger's faith, eventually

Last updated on: May 2, 2011 12:51 IST

20-year-old Aaron Ramsay scored 56th minute winner

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Arsene Wenger was left glowing with pride at the performance of his young team in Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester United -- a week after the world seemed united in telling him he needed to buy in some experience.

Arsenal's average age of 23 years and 296 days was the youngest of any Premier League starting XI this season and their 56th-minute winner was scored by 20-year-old Aaron Ramsey.

However, even without the reassuring presence of injured captain Cesc Fabregas, the youngsters shook off the disappointment of a poor run of results to take the game to United from the start.


Image: Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey celebrates after scoring against Manchester United
Photographs: Getty Images
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'It's important that we keep faith in what we do'

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United may well have been playing conservatively and would probably have been happy to go away with a 0-0 draw and a four-point lead over Chelsea with three games remaining but Arsenal deserve credit for their positive approach.

That, and his first victory over United in eight attempts, brought the smile back to the face of Wenger, who has looked increasingly ragged and angry with each of his team's setbacks over the last two months.

"If you look at the age of the team today it's an encouragement for the club, it's very young," the Frenchman said.

"I feel we want to add what is needed and I'm very cautious in what I say. It's important that we keep faith in what we do, you can see that the players grow when they get the chance.

"You can only grow if you play but people want both, win every game and produce fantastic players."


Image: Manchester United's Anderson (left) challenges Arsenal's Theo Walcott
Photographs: Reuters
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'They still lack a bit of maturity under pressure'

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Wenger accepted, however, that his squad had struggled to deal with the disappointments as their bid for a quadruple imploded in a matter of days.

"Yes, they still lack a bit of maturity under pressure," he said. "There was a subconscious effect on our team, dealing with the disappointments.

Before Sunday's victory Arsenal had managed only one win -- against Blackpool -- in seven league games yet Wenger said his side could and should have still been in real contention for the title.

"Against Liverpool we were 1-0 up in 97th minute and it's 1-1, we were 3-1 up against Tottenham (Hotspur in a 3-3 draw) and we had three chances to go 2-1 up against Bolton (in last week's 2-1 defeat).

"It should have been nine points and with the win today we would have been top."


Image: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Arsenal's Alex Song get physical
Photographs: Reuters
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'We will fight until the last seconds of the season'

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Asked if his team had performed better because the pressure was off, Wenger said: "It was immense pressure to be out of the title race because I felt so strongly we would win it.

"We will fight until the last seconds of the season. We've been unlucky until now, maybe that will change until the end of the season."

United's defeat continues their stilted away from this season that has produced just five wins and nine draws from 18 league games.

At home, though, where they face Chelsea next week in a huge showdown, they have been superb, winning 18 and drawing one of their 19 matches.

"Every year they win the title they win it at Old Trafford," Wenger said.


Image: Manchester United's Park Ji-sung (left) wins the ball over Arsenal's Jack Wilshere
Photographs: Reuters
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'It gives Chelsea a major chance now'

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"We are always comparable away from home but they get the points at Old Trafford."

A Chelsea victory there next week would leave the teams level on points with two games remaining. They currently have an identical goal difference.

"Obviously, it gives Chelsea a major chance now," Ferguson said. "But a game at Old Trafford, the supporters will be ready for it -- and so will our players."


Image: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson (left) shouts at the assistant referee after Michael Owen had a penalty shout turned down
Photographs: Reuters
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