THIERRY Henry and Arsene Wenger praised Sunderland fans for their sportsmanship in applauding the French legend on to the pitch in his last appearance in England this season.
Whether the 34-year-old plays Premier League football again, whether next season he comes on loan from New York Red Bulls again, remains to be seen.
But if Saturday is to be his farewell, it could hardly have been more fitting than a last-minute goal after home and away fans had clapped him on to the pitch.
French legend Henry said of his crucial cameo and winning goal for Arsenal: “It was an amazing feeling.
“It has always been a pleasure to come here to Sunderland.
“When I was warming up, the fans near me started clapping.
“I have always found this a very special place to play football.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere and overall it was so special for me, with it being my last game in the Premier League.
“To be able to celebrate with all the Arsenal fans, who have come such a long way – it really was magical.
“Looking at the results today, everything seemed to go our way and now people need to keep on going and make sure we stay where we are.”
Wenger said: “I was not surprised that Sunderland fans applauded him. They have done it before.
“They are great fans up here and they appreciate high-quality football and high-quality footballers.”
Though rival manager Martin O’Neill’s thoughts were elsewhere after Sunderland’s defeat, he still had time to acknowledge one of the most gifted footballers of the modern era.
“Thierry is, without doubt, one of the greats,” said the Sunderland manager.“
“He has won just about everything in the game, had a dramatic impact on our game and has done very well second time around, even though he has lost the electrifying pace he once had.
“I’m pleased to hear that Sunderland supporters applauded him and appreciated him.
“I think he deserves to be appreciated – he’s one of the top five players that have ever played in the Premier League.”