ARSENE WENGER has challenged his Arsenal players to deliver a psychological blow to Manchester United by winning at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Gunners currently lie two points ahed of the Red Devils and can secure a top three finish and an automatic Champions League qualification spot with victory over Louis van Gaal’s side.
Wenger’s men have already tasted success at the Theatre of Dreams this season, winning 2-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final which was their first victory at the ground since 2006.
That followed an away win at Manchester City and Wenger believes another triumph at United would prove to his players and rivals that they have overcome a mental barrier.
“I think it could maybe send a symbolic statement because we won over there in the FA Cup,” Wenger said.
“To reproduce that would be psychologically important.
“To do it again would convince us more that we have the strength and would be even stronger next season.
“It would show that we have made progress because in recent years it was a difficult ground for us.
"I like to go to Old Trafford and play well because it’s a great stadium. We have good, fantastic and very bad memories but that’s part of life in football.
“Our recent away form has been very strong and that is always a sign of a team that is in progress.
“I believe we have overcome a mental barrier. But this is another opportunity to show this is definitely done.”
Danny Welbeck will miss out on another return to his former club after failing to shake off a knee injury.
The England striker scored the winner in the FA Cup quarter-final but Wenger revealed Sunday’s trip had come slightly too soon for the player.
He is joined on the sidelines by Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Wenger is hopeful Aaron Ramsey will be fit after returning to training following a knock picked up against Hull two weeks ago.
Arsenal against Manchester United was one of the biggest rivalries in English football during the 1990s and early 2000s with the two sides often battling it out for the title.
And while Wenger acknowledges that it has changed in recent years from when he first arrived at the club in 1996, he insists it remains as strong as ever.
“It has changed because at the start it was mainly Manchester United or us [winning the title],” Wenger said.
“Then we had Chelsea join in and after that Manchester City.
“It has changed but the fact that we are still battling for the title and the top four shows consistency from both sides.
“We went through a period where we were restricted in our finances and United were not and sometimes I felt we were fighting with three boxers who have much more resources than us.
“The rivalry still exists and their is a fierce rivalry between all the teams.
“Is it a bit more respectful today? Maybe, but it’s not too bad.”
Wenger also once again moved to distance Arsenal from a bid for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The 32-year-old is set to leave Stamford Bridge this summer after becoming number two to Thibaut Courtois and his agent Viktor Kolar has confirmed he has been given permission to speak to other clubs.
But Wenger insists in David Ospina, Wojciech Szczesny and Emiliano Martinez he already has three world-class goalkeepers.
Asked if he would make a move for Cech if he was available, Wenger said: “I don’t deal in ifs.
“We have three world-class keepers.
“We are not interested in anybody at the moment.”