Premier League

Gunners to provide guard of honour

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Tue, 23 Apr 2013 13:08:00

Montpellier president Louis Nicollin has revealed Jean Fernandez's focus on youth was one of the key reasons why he chose him as outgoing coach Rene Girard's replacement for next season.

Fernandez has previously managed Marseille, Auxerre and Nancy as well as clubs in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, and Nicollin admitted yesterday that he had been hoping to work with him for some time.

The opportunity to bring the 58-year-old to the Stade de la Mosson arose when Girard announced last month that he would leave Montpellier at the end of the Ligue 1 season.

Nicollin said the decision to appoint Fernandez was an easy one.

"I like a lot of things about him," Nicollin told ligue1.com. "Especially his work with younger players. I hope he can do the same thing here that he did at Auxerre, where he spent five years.

"The problem has been solved for a little while now. From the day that Rene Girard made his announcement, which I wasn't too happy with, I got right down to work to find a new coach, with the help of my son (Laurent Nicollin, Montpellier vice-president), (special advisor) Michel Mezy and (Montpellier sporting director) Bruno Carotti.

"We quickly agreed on Jean Fernandez."

Fernandez tasted success during at Auxerre after guiding them to a surprise third-placed finish in Ligue 1 in the 2009-10 campaign which ensured Champions League football for the following season.

However, his time at Nancy was less successful, with soured relations with president Jacques Rousselot eventually resulting in his resignation in January.

That does not deter Montpellier president Nicollin, though.

"The whole Nancy story makes me laugh," he said.

"Last season, he finished in 11th place with a weak side and this year his side was even weaker. Sincerely, the whole story did nothing to put me off bringing him to Montpellier.

"I just looked at what he had achieved with his other clubs."

A hat-trick by Robin van Persie - sold to United by Arsenal last summer - sealed a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford to secure a 20th domestic championship for the Red Devils.

Tradition has seen champions clapped onto the pitch in the past, with United having done so for Chelsea in 2005 and also Arsenal back in 1991 at Highbury.

However, given the animosity from some Gunners supporters to the ?24million departure of their former captain to United, where he has gone on to score 28 goals, the issue did throw up concerns.

Nevertheless, Arsenal will proceed with the plans to mark United's achievements.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been reluctant to discuss the issue ahead of their Premier League game at Fulham.

He said: "Manchester United have won the title. Do they win it here or somewhere else? It is done.

"For us, what is important is to win the next game which is Fulham and then after we deal with Manchester United."

Arsenal are 21 points behind United in third place, but remain in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

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