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Wenger: Ferguson absence relieves referee pressure

Arsenal meet Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday in a fixture which has seen its fair share of incident through the years.

But, after admitting that it would be "strange" not to have Ferguson in the opposite dugout, Wenger believes it is the match officials who will breathe the bigger sigh of relief, with the Scot having been replaced by David Moyes in the close-season.

"That is a question you shouldn't ask me, but the referees," he said, before joking: "I think the referees were absolutely relaxed and happy to go there."

Michael Oliver is set to take charge of Sunday's clash, which sees Arsenal aiming to maintain their five-point advantage at the top of the table.

"I expect the referees to make the right decisions," Wenger continued. "I never have preconceived ideas.

"It is down to the referee to make the right decisions, to protect the players and to give the free-kicks you deserve."

While Ferguson's absence could relieve some pressure on the officials, Wenger feels there is a geographical element to the amount of pressure placed on referees.

"There (at Old Trafford) pressure comes as well from the crowd when they go for every ball and put the referee under pressure, and that is a bit more in the north than in the south," he stated.

"You know that when you go to Sunderland the crowd plays every ball, when you go to Everton the crowd plays every ball. Then in London, the crowd is a bit more relaxed."

Arsenal sit eight points clear of Manchester United in the Premier League table.