Arsene Wenger thanked Manchester United for a “very classy” reception on his last visit to Old Trafford, as Alex Ferguson presented him with a gift before Sunday’s 2-1 loss.
The Frenchman still left Old Trafford with another loss after Marouane Fellaini’s late winner, but said he appreciated the welcome.
“I am thankful to Manchester United because they gave a nice gesture before the game. It was very classy from them,” said Wenger, who is stepping down after his 22nd season in charge of the Gunners. “It’s the first time I get a trophy before the game, that’s new. [The reception from fans] shows you that once you are not a danger anymore, people love you.”
Wenger fielded a young and inexperienced side as he rested a number of starters ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semifinal at Atletico Madrid but nearly came away with a point after a spirited display. Centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos impressed on his Arsenal debut while 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles put in a man-of-the-match performance in central midfield. And Wenger was full of praise for both youngsters.
“Maitland-Niles slowly gets to the player I think he can be in defensive midfield. He can create as well,” Wenger said. “Mavropanos in training has shown top quality. But then you always have a question mark as long as you don’t see that under pressure in big games.
“Can he show that in a big game? You never know. The big players do better in competition than in training. They make a career. We have many players at our level who do less well in the competition than in training. So that was the question mark before the game and I think he did well. He surprised everyone by his quality today. My successor will watch this game today.
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