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Arsene Wenger has admitted that fixtures between Arsenal and Manchester united are no longer the “final of the championship” ahead of their highly anticipated clash on Saturday.

The teams were the dominant premier league sides around the turn of the century, taking nine consecutive titles between them from 1996 to 2004 as Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson played out a rivalry on the touchline.

Chelsea and Manchester City’s emergence has seen the two-horse race for the premier league widen since, while Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester have been in the title picture in recent years.

Wenger, who will come up against Jose Mourinho in the united dugout when the two sides meet at the emirates, admits the fixture has lost some of importance.

“No, not as much,” he replied when asked if the game defines the season as much as it once did. “We are early in the season and during some seasons when I was here it was the final of the championship but that is not the case anymore.

“We have six or seven teams that fight at the top, but it is still a very big game and a very important one. It plays a little part because it is two big clubs and that always creates a big game and players know that a lot will be said before and after the game. Of course it has an influence.”

Wenger claimed his first competitive victory over Mourinho in last season’s meeting between the sides in north London, coming at the 16th time of trying. The 2-0 victory over United on May 7 is part of a 12-game winning run at home for arsenal in the premier league.

Their 5-0 win over Huddersfield on Wednesday evening made it a dozen victories in succession but club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette was a casualty of the night after picking up a groin injury. Olivier Giroud, who scored twice against the terriers, could be recalled to make his first premier league start for the club since May 16.

 

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