Tuesday 25 September 2018

'I always did really respect the man' - Alex Ferguson leads tributes to Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford

Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho greet Arsene Wenger
Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho greet Arsene Wenger

Rory Dollard

Arsene Wenger was treated to a warm reception by old rival Alex Ferguson on his last trip to Old Trafford as Arsenal boss.

The Frenchman has enjoyed a long and fraught relationship with Manchester United since his arrival in English football 22 years ago, ruffling plenty of feathers and embracing the role of irritant and adversary.

But having announced his departure at the end of the season there was a show of respect, led by his long-term foe Ferguson.

Wenger was afforded a round of applause from the home support as he walked from tunnel to dugout, and he then posed with Ferguson as the Scot presented him with a silver vase.

Current United manager Jose Mourinho, who has also had a rocky relationship with Wenger, stepped in to shake his hand and shared a few words with his opposite number before kick-off.

An interview with Ferguson also appeared in the United review programme, in which he recalled their early tussles.

"When Arsene came to Arsenal, he changed a lot of the eating habits and fitness regimes at the club," said Ferguson.

"He was ahead of the game at that particular time. We took examples, as we always tried to take examples from anybody who was improving.

"It was like when you're driving along the road: you have to be aware of somebody coming up in your wing mirror, trying to overtake you. That was the case with us and Arsenal for quite a few years.

"Virtually every game we played against Arsenal, there was a real edge to the match. There were confrontations, because there were two teams and two managers battling for one award: the Premier League.

"In my time, we had a few arguments but I always did really respect the man because he did a fantastic job at his club."

"Although the Premier League started in 1992-93, that rivalry became the highlight of the league season," added Ferguson.

"Liverpool, without question, is the biggest fixture United ever got involved in, simply because of the history of both clubs: the two most successful clubs in Britain. I love those games, they're fantastic.

"I know that now the rivalry has changed a bit, with Man City doing well, but these are the games that any Man United player would love to be involved in now: against City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham.

"There are some great clubs and some fantastic competition in the Premier League now, but United against Arsenal was great for the game. It made the Premier League."

In his programme notes Mourinho called for Wenger to receive the "respect he deserves" but that did not prevent some relatively amiable ribbing from the home fans.

When Paul Pogba put the Red Devils in front with an early goal, a chorus of "Arsene Wenger we want you to stay" rang around the stadium.

Press Association

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