Van Persie reunion as Arsenal returns to United

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LONDON (AP) -A return to the scene of its heaviest defeat since the 19th century seems to be the last thing a stuttering Arsenal side needs on Saturday.

So manager Arsene Wenger is trying to ensure the Gunners don't dwell on last season's 8-2 thumping at Manchester United ahead of Saturday's return to Old Trafford.

"On the day I think the result was down to special circumstances," Wenger said about the team's worst loss since 1896. "That's why the emotional meaning is big but the footballing meaning is not very big, and we have had that behind us for a long, long time now."

What's still very recent, though, is the memory of Arsenal selling its most potent attacking threat to its rival after eight years in north London.

Robin van Persie's seven Premier League goals since August have lifted United to second, six points above Arsenal in sixth.

"Saturday's game is not about Van Persie. Not for us and I don't think for him, as well," Wenger said. "For us, what is important is the result at the end of the game, and the quality of our performance. We do not even talk about him. ... To start to think, how much do we miss him will not help us to do well."

They could be talking about it more, though, after the match. During the club's annual general meeting, fans vented their displeasure last week over the sale of Van Persie, especially after seeing him thrive so quickly in his new surroundings.

"I am not surprised by how well he is doing," Wenger said. "In Manchester United, you have good players around him, and Robin is very intelligent around the box. His runs are fantastic, his technique is absolutely amazing, so I'm not surprised.

"There are a lot of players in offensive positions, so with his intelligent runs, of course he will take advantage of that. He's certainly the most efficient striker."

Arsenal travels north after a draining League Cup encounter at Reading on Tuesday when the side fought back from four goals down to advance to the quarterfinals with a 7-5 victory.

"It was an irrational game with a good end for us so you like it," Wenger said. "And then it's easier to cope with it, the irrationality, than when you lose. ... Some players still have heavy legs but hopefully they will have recovered by Saturday."

United will be looking to build on Sunday's 3-2 victory over Chelsea that ended the leaders' unbeaten start to the season, rather than reflecting on a youthful side then losing 5-4 at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup on Wednesday.

The priority for Chelsea is the Premier League, although its lead over United is now down to a point going into Saturday's match at Swansea.

And the south Wales club is high in confidence after ousting League Cup holder Liverpool on Wednesday with a 3-1 win at Anfield.

"Chelsea, of course, will be a difficult game," manager Michael Laudrup said. "But winning gives you extra strength and I hope we get that on Saturday."

Swansea restricted Manchester City to a 1-0 victory last weekend and the champions now travel to West Ham on Saturday third in the league, three points behind Chelsea.

Pablo Zabaleta eased City's injury concerns at right back by recovering from a hamstring injury this week while Micah Richards and Maicon are sidelined.

"We have some problems in defense at the moment," Zabaleta said. "We've had three fullbacks injured over the past few months, so it is great to be back with the team."

Also Saturday, Fulham hosts Everton, Norwich takes on Stoke, Aston Villa is at Sunderland, and Tottenham faces Wigan.

On Sunday, there's a meeting of two winless teams, bottom-place Queens Park Rangers and Reading, while 13th-place Liverpool hosts Newcastle.

On Monday night, Southampton heads to West Bromwich Albion searching for its first away win of the season.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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