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Old 18th February 2008, 10:16   #1
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Default Arsène Wenger ‘humiliated’ by Nani juggling act

Arsene Wenger ‘humiliated’ by Nani juggling act
Oliver Kay The Times
February 18, 2008

Even when the pizza does not fly in the players’ tunnel after a showdown between Manchester United and Arsenal, the barbs almost always do. Mercifully there was nothing so undignified as a food fight after United’s 4-0 victory in the FA Cup fifth round at Old Trafford on Saturday, but there were plenty of recriminations, with Arsenal’s feathers ruffled by the sight of Nani playing keepy-uppy in the final minutes of the game.

Arsène Wenger claimed that the United winger had “humiliated” Arsenal’s players by showboating and, surprisingly, Sir Alex Ferguson agreed, saying that he had told Nani in the dressing-room that “he didn’t need to do that”. Surely there can be no better time to exhibit your talents in such a manner than when 4-0 up against one of your fiercest rivals, but Nani’s ball-juggling antics earned him a full-blooded challenge from Mathieu Flamini, a deliberate kick from William Gallas and a warning from Gilberto Silva about flaunting football’s unwritten code of conduct.

“Some of our guys were upset that he [Nani] did that,” Gilberto, the Arsenal midfield player, said. “They have calmed down now. It was important for us that we didn’t lose control and lose another man [after Emmanuel Eboué’s dismissal]. I spoke to him and told him it wasn’t necessary for him to do that. I told him he could get a bad kick doing that. But I don’t think any of our players would kick him too hard.”

Ferguson would certainly question that, given the way that Gallas, the Arsenal captain, kicked out at Nani two minutes later. “I thought Gallas should have been sent off,” the United manager said. “He kicked Nani from behind with the ball 20 yards away. I think it should be a red card. The referee must look at that again.”

If Alan Wiley were to decide that the tackle merited a red card, Gallas would be banned for three games by the FA, a penalty that could have severe repercussions for Arsenal’s title ambitions. Eboué is already in line for a three-match ban after his aerial challenge on Patrice Evra four minutes into the second half, which Wiley deemed to be violent conduct.

At times Arsenal’s performance smacked of indifference. Gilberto rejected suggestions that the defeat could affect their title challenge, but he admitted that they need to recover before they face AC Milan at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in the Champions League first knockout round, first leg. “We must bounce back if we want to achieve something,” the midfield player said. “We need to look forward to the next game against Milan. That will be hard.”

United retain ambitions of repeating their feat of 1999, when they won the league title, the Champions League and the FA Cup. They travel to Lyons tomorrow for the first leg of their European tie on Wednesday, but Ferguson will be watching with interest when the draw is made for the FA Cup quarter-finals this lunchtime. In their past 18 rounds in the competition, spanning four seasons, United have played Premier League opposition on all but three occasions. “It’s a certainty we’ll get Chelsea,” Ferguson said. “I might go down and watch the draw myself, go and test these balls. That’s the only thing that can satisfy me.”

Bernard Lacombe, the Lyons sporting director, has suggested that Ferguson has been “clumsy” in informing the club of his interest in two of their players, Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema. “I’m surprised because those declarations don’t correspond to the man he is,” he said.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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