Wenger trumps Fergie if you want an easy life
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
Serious question. Who would you rather play for: Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson? Day after day, season after season, which suitor offers the preferable holistic experience?
Let's hop back to 1991. A teenage Emmanuel Petit has just made a stunning debut for Monaco. He arrives the next day for training, still glowing.
Wenger, his manager, congratulates him, but says, "Emmanuel, if you want to become a better footballer, you need to learn how to discover yourself. You have to open your heart and open your mind as well, because if you don't do that you'll never know who you are.
"At your age you have to enjoy your life. Sometimes you have to go to clubs, drink beers with your friends and do your own stuff."
Asked if he took the advice, Petit laughed "Oh yes!!"
It's 1992 in Manchester. An apoplectic Ferguson famously gate-crashes a party at Lee Sharpe's house. Sharpe and a young Ryan Giggs buckle up on the couch and endure the hair-dryer.
Giggs recalls of that period: "You'd go out on a Saturday night and he'd tell you where you were, what you'd done and who you were with. You'd think: 'How does he know that?' He had a go at me too many times to recount."
Ferguson always said he liked to see his players marry young. The stability helped their game. You suspect Wenger never advised rushing into anything.
Recently Patrick Vieira was asked what he thought Wenger's biggest weakness was. He paused for a few moments, "He trusts the players, too much."
Ferguson, understanding much about human nature, didn't trust his players; he ruled them. If Giggs turned up for training clean shaven he would accuse him of being out the night before.
If Jaap Stam upset the natural order, he sold him.
Wenger has tried to create a vacuum in which his players can flourish. It has worked well in the past, with the right characters.
But there are also some relentless basics of psychology which can't be ignored. Take his transfer dealings last summer, where no new outfield players arrived - a stunning decision, not least because of the attitude it fosters.
These are characters who have thrived on competition for places their entire lives.
How lovely must it be to arrive back in August with no new competition for your place?
As things continue to unravel for them, Wenger perseveres. He has given his players four of the last nine days off. You'd think they'd have some things to work on. You'd think they'd want to put it right.
You'd think they should be killing each other. But they're not.
For an easy life, it's Wenger over Ferguson all day long.