Sunday 4 December 2016

Ferguson baffled by Wenger criticism

Simon Stone

Published 26/08/2011 | 13:14

Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has warned Arsenal's unhappy fans to be careful what they wish for.

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Although the Gunners eased some of the immediate pressure on Arsene Wenger by reaching the Champions League group stage this week, the north London giants head to Old Trafford on Sunday having collected just one point from their opening two Barclays Premier League games.



That meagre return, the loss of star men Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Wenger's transfer policy which has left many supporters distinctly underwhelmed and six seasons without a trophy have led many to start thinking the previously unthinkable and wonder whether a change at the top is required.



Given his record over almost 15 years, it seems a harsh assessment.



And Ferguson wonders exactly who those hard-to-please fans have in mind as a potential replacement.



"I would like to know who is going to replace him," said the United boss.



"The work he has done in the 15 years he has been at the club is the best in Arsenal's history.



"Yes, he has not won a trophy for six years but what does that mean? The quality of his side has not been reduced."



Rather, as Ferguson points out, the standard of opposition has improved, first through the vast riches lavished on Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, now the even deeper pockets of Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City.



"Chelsea's involvement has created a lot of the problem in terms of trophies to win because they and ourselves have been dominating the Premier League," said Ferguson.



"Now Manchester City have come on the scene.



"When Arsenal and ourselves were going head-to-head, it went on for about eight years. The competition is far greater now."



Not that Ferguson expects supporters of any club, including his own, to adopt a reasoned view of proceedings.



As he is fond of saying, the world is different now compared to the one that existed before Wenger replaced Bruce Rioch at Highbury in the autumn of 1996.



"It is a bit unfair of course. But who understands fairness and unfairness today?" he said.



"It is quite a cynical world. Supporters are far less easy to please than they were 20 years ago. It is disappointing.



"But (Arsenal) answered everybody back on Wednesday. They got a great result and the game on Sunday will be another stepping stone for them."



Ferguson certainly will not be taking Arsenal lightly, even though his own youthful side have started the season with a bang, firing three second-half goals past Tottenham on Monday after an opening weekend win at West Brom.



The question United's manager is faced with is whether to stick with the likes of Tom Cleverley now Darren Fletcher is available to beef up his midfield, or if he should leave out either Jonny Evans or Phil Jones in favour of Rio Ferdinand if the England veteran recovers from a hamstring strain.



Even more eye-catching is the battle between Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez for the right to partner Wayne Rooney in attack.



It seems Ferguson is leaning towards his kids.



"I have a tremendous problem when it comes to picking a side but it is the kind of problem I want," he said.



"They (the younger players) have only played a couple of games. We are very enthusiastic about their potential but the name of the game is what they achieve.



"Maybe some of their form will taper off. That is when the squad comes into play. At the moment they are doing very well. So I have to let it carry on."



The promise of Ferguson's team contrasts sharply with the fortunes of Scottish teams in Europe, which drew a groan of regret from a man not used to being pushed onto the back foot.



Unlike the football powerbrokers in his home land, the United manager merely has to find the right time to use the more experienced members of his squad, knowing they are being challenged constantly by the youngsters Fabio Capello seems set to call upon next month.



"It is not just their enthusiasm and energy. It is their ability. That is why I am picking them," he said.



"The boy Cleverley is an example. We toyed about starting the Community Shield with him but we thought it is a big ask for a young kid to go in against tremendously physical players like Nigel de Jong and Yaya Toure.



"But when he came on, he changed the game. He picked himself after that."

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