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Wenger relishing Fergie showdown

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger had a glint in his eye when asked about his side's Champions League semifinal against Manchester United in a fortnight.

Arsenal crushed Villarreal 3-0 on Wednesday to seal a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Theo Walcott set the tone for a surprisingly one-sided encounter with an early opener before Emmanuel Adebayor's second goal of the tie on the hour and a Robin van Persie penalty finished off Villarreal which had Sebastian Eguren sent off.

After the Gunners win, the focus switched to the impending first European duel between old adversaries Wenger and United boss Alex Ferguson.

Unbeaten in 18 Premier League games and with Saturday's FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea also to look forward to, Wenger has the satisfied persona of a man who never doubted that his buccaneering young side would come good. "I feel that confidence transfers from one competition to another," Wenger said.

After Chelsea's astonishing quarterfinal victory over Liverpool, another rip-roaring showdown between two big English clubs looks on the cards. There is almost certain to be more of the verbal fencing only Wenger and Ferguson can provide.

Whatever their personal feelings for each other, there is no doubting the respect for each other's football philosophy.

"I believe that they are always exciting games between us, both sides like to go forward so it will be a promising semifinal, we are up for the challenge," Wenger said.

"It is not difficult psychologically (to play an English club). I believe that if you want to go far in the Champions League you have to play an English team at some stage.

"The history between us always has a little part to play. But we are in a 180-minute Cup game and it will be the form of the days that will have the big impact."

Arsenal faces the away leg first at Old Trafford before returning to the Emirates which has proved a fortress for Wenger's side in Europe. It is yet to concede a goal there in the competition this season and is unbeaten at home in the Champions League since losing to Chelsea in 2004.

"It's a little advantage (to play at home in the second leg) but not significant statistically," Wenger said. "Maybe it's something like 55 percent but it's even less of an advantage between English clubs because we know each other so well."

While Arsenal eyes a possible FA Cup and Champions League double, United's 1-0 win at Porto keeps alive its hopes of sweeping five competitions this season having already added two pieces of silverware to its cabinet.

"It's a classic semifinal and something to look forward to. Two great footballing teams who want to play the right way. They're going to be billed as a clash of the titans of England," United defender John O'Shea told the club's Website.

There has been signs of strain at United as Liverpool and Chelsea both remain in hot pursuit for the Premier League title but Ferguson's side dispelled many of the doubts about its form in Portugal on Wednesday.

"This win gives us great confidence," Cristiano Ronaldo told MUTV. "The last five or six games we didn't play great and I hope this changes it."


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