Henry open to another return

Start spreading the news, Thierry Henry might not have taken his final bow in the Premier League.

If he has, the Frenchman went out in style, but it’s clear he still wants to be a part of it. And we’re not just talking New York, here.

If he’s not careful, the 34-year-old is set to match Frank Sinatra, another individual inextricably linked with the Big Apple, for the frequency of his comebacks. Where Old Blue Eyes loved to croon about the delights of his adopted home, Henry is set to return to the city’s MLS side, the Red Bulls, after bringing the curtain down on his second stint in the English top flight with an injury-time winner. Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?

Afterwards, the forward joined manager Arsene Wenger in leaving the door ajar for a second return next season.

It’s clear there’s still plenty of va-va-voom left in the old legs yet, and Henry said: “Sometimes you never know when something is going to end. I knew when the final whistle blew that this was my last game in the Premier League for now, but I guess you can never say never.

“I must admit that I never thought I was going to come back and play for Arsenal in the first place. Who knows if I can say this was definitely the end? It could be different. Who knows? That’s why I celebrated so much with my team-mates and the fans after scoring. We’ll see what happens.”

For Arsenal supporters, the Frenchman’s words are tantalising, the thought of a second return far from ruled out. There remains Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final visit to AC Milan to further enhance his legacy before a transatlantic return.

Wenger added to the intrigue when he insisted: “He finished the story of a legend today in the league, and I hope he will add to it in the Champions League.

“It shows you that great players never lose it. Exceptional talent always survives, like with Paul Scholes at Manchester United and Thierry here. It’s such a luxury to have him on the bench. Yes, he has to go back to New York, but we’ll see next season. Maybe he might want to stop here again at some stage.”

Wenger absolved James McClean of any blame for unwittingly taking advantage of an injury to Per Mertesacker in the build-up to his sweetly-struck 70th-minute opener.

“We were unfortunate,” the Arsenal manager said. “Mertesacker told me it felt like a shot in his ankle so it looks like ligament damage. It did cross my mind, but there’s no way Sunderland should have stopped when he went down, there was no way they could have known and we couldn’t demand anything of them.”

Martin O’Neill wouldn’t be drawn on McClean’s surprise omission from Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad for the forth-coming friendly against Czech Republic. The 22-year-old gave the best possible riposte with a display of verve and vigour and clearly, many more displays like this and it will only be a matter of time before the midfielder completes his fairytale rise.

After only a third defeat — all to London clubs — of his 14-game reign, O’Neill said: “James took his goal well, and was splendid throughout. He works tirelessly for us, and where he gets the energy from, I don’t know.”

The visitors were level within five minutes as Wenger’s three substitutions each paid dividends with one of those, Aaron Ramsey, equalising from the edge of the area, the ball finding the net via both posts. Wenger’s other two replacements, Andrey Arshavin and Henry, combined with the latter poking home a cross from the former in the first of four added minutes to seal a gutsy, if undeserved, come from behind win.

“It was emotional,” Henry added. “It’s always been a pleasure to come to Sunderland, and as I warmed up the home fans near me started clapping, which was an amazing gesture.”

Those Irish fans who will forever recall his deft handling to help to deny Trapattoni’s side qualification for the last World Cup might differ somewhat in the way they next welcome the Frenchman.

At least Sunderland won’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption. The sides do it all again here on Saturday for a place in the last eight of the FA Cup. Everyone that is, except Henry. Not for the time being, at least.

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