Mikel Arteta reveals turning to Sir Alex Ferguson for motivation in Arsenal’s title hunt
‘Words mean absolutely nothing, we have to do it on the pitch,’ says Mikel Arteta of Arsenal’s championship chase, as he hails Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘hard honesty’ ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Manchester United.
A win for Arsenal today would send them eight points clear at the top of the league, while a win for United would bring them level on points with second-placed Manchester City.
It is the most critical match between the two teams in almost a decade, maybe surpassing the Red Devils’ 8-2 victory in the 2011 match that established Arsene Wenger’s side as a team in decline.
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Arteta arrived at the Emirates as a player shortly after that game, and has now reflected on how it influenced his time at the club.
‘The circumstances are sometimes necessary for someone to be given the opportunity,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately it had to be the 8-2 because it was a big result. I don’t think it was just the result that got me here, but it probably helped. After that, the rest is history.’
That win came towards the end of Ferguson’s tenure at United, and Arteta has since spoken of how taken he was with the manager’s frank style.
He added: ‘What really captured me was his presence, his charisma and the way he talked. How honest and brutal he was about certain opinions he had about players and the game.
‘I had a few conversations, not formally, but with people around him and it was more listening than talking.’
In addition to providing a potential for Arsenal to expand their lead over the pursuing group, Sunday’s encounter provides an opportunity for them to demonstrate their ability to win important games at home.
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Their record this year has been difficult to criticize, although Arteta’s team just dropped points at home to Newcastle and were defeated by United at Old Trafford last season.
They have also yet to face City, raising concerns about their capacity to defeat rival championship contenders.
‘To have the attitude and capacity to regulate emotions required to play on the big stage is really important,’ Arteta said before the game.
‘The physical component is also important. Without it, you will be unable to participate for 11 months in the conditions in which we work.
‘We haven’t been in a title race for many years. Words mean absolutely nothing, we have to do it on the pitch.’