Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger thanked Manchester United for his warm reception, joking before his team’s 2-1 defeat that he was no longer a “danger” to them.
Wenger, 68, completes 22 years of servitude at Arsenal at the end of the season, was managing them for the final time at Old Trafford.
To mark the occasion, Sir Alex Ferguson presented on United’s behalf a vase to the 68-year-old Frenchman before kick-off. Asked about his ovation as he walked along the touchline, Wenger said: “When you’re not a danger any more, people love you.
“I am thankful to Manchester United because they had a nice gesture. It is the first time I get a trophy before a game. It is very classy from them.”
Wenger fielded an inexperienced squad that was Arsenal’s youngest in the fixture since August 2011 and, after losing to an added-time Marouane Fellaini header, believes whoever succeeds him will take over a squad of depth.
“My successor will watch this game and hopefully he will come to a positive conclusion because I think they are the future of Arsenal football club – some, 100%,” Wenger said. “We had a very young team and the performance was positive.”
“The players are destroyed because they gave everything and were caught in the final minute. There were many question marks if we would be strong enough to fight but the quality was good, the spirit was good, many players stood up. We tired a bit in the last 20 minutes and were a bit more under pressure. It was a negative result and a positive performance.”
Paul Pogba opened the scoring on 16 minutes before Henrikh Mkhitaryan equalised against his former club on 51 minutes.
Victory puts United in pole position for a second-place finish with 77 points with three games remaining, although Romelu Lukaku’s foot injury later in the second half is of concern with the FA Cup final on 19 May.