Van Persie return hurt like 'disappointed love': Wenger

LONDON (AFP) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said Robin van Persie's equaliser for Manchester United on his return to the Emirates Stadium had left the fans of his former club nursing feelings of "disappointed love".

Van Persie scored a 44th-minute penalty to earn United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday, jeopardising his old side's chances of securing the top-four Premier League finish they need to qualify for the Champions League.

The Dutchman, who left Arsenal in a £24 million (S$45.9 million) transfer last year, was roundly booed, but Wenger said it was only because he had brought so much joy to the club during his eight-year stay in north London.

"They loved him, so today it was a bit of a disappointed love," said the Frenchman, before jokingly trying to play down the significance of Van Persie's goal.

"I don't think he scored - he scored a penalty. It counts, but it's not completely the same," Wenger said.

"When you buy a goalscorer, you look always at how many goals he scored on penalties, how many goals in open play. But he took his penalty very well.

"I knew when he decided to take it, there was an 80 percent chance he'd score. He was our penalty taker and I know he does that very well." Van Persie's goal took his tally for the season to 25 in the league and cancelled out Theo Walcott's 2nd-minute opener.

Wenger revealed that Van Persie had taken the opportunity to catch up with some of his former team-mates, but said he was pleased by his side's efforts to prevent him from enjoying his return to his old stomping ground.

"He's in our dressing room at the moment, because our food is better than in their (United's) dressing room!" Wenger told reporters.

"Our defenders didn't make life easy for him at all. We played with great commitment. Our two centre-backs played very well." Wenger also rejected suggestions that the guard of honour with which Arsenal's players welcomed newly crowned champions United onto the pitch had played a part in his side's aggressive start to the game.

"I think our mental preparations contributed to that start more than the guard of honour," he said. "If it helped us that much, we'd do it every week." United's draw means they now cannot eclipse Chelsea's Premier League points record of 95, set in the 2004-05 season.

United manager Alex Ferguson praised Arsenal for their combative approach to the game but complained that the yellow cards shown to Rafael da Silva, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Van Persie were unjustified.

"Arsenal set off at a fantastic pace - very aggressive and a lot of tackles," he said.

"I think the referee (Phil Dowd) just couldn't keep up at that point. Then when we give away a foul, he's booked us right away. We had five players booked.

"We've got one of the best disciplinary records in the country - we probably have the best disciplinary record in the country - and for Man United to have five players booked, I don't think that's right." The draw left Arsenal in fourth place, two points above north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, but having played a game more.

With games against relegated Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United to come, Wenger warned his players not to take their foot off the gas.

"There's no room for dropping points," he said. "We are in a position where we can't drop points, but the other teams are in the same position." Wenger also dismissed reports in the French media linking him with a move to Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

"I don't know what they say about me," he said.

"I'm concentrating on the next match and next season and at the end of my contract, I'll see what I do. I've always respected my contracts and I don't see why I'd change at my age."

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