Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has leaped to the defence of his rival Arsene Wenger, and has hit out at the Arsenal manager's recent critics by saying the "work he has done is the best in Arsenal's history."
However, as always with Fergie, there is more here than meets the eye, because the United supremo has also lashed his rival for allowing a five year barren run at the Gunners.
On the eve of what is already looking like a crunch game for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson questioned, according to The Guardian, the wisdom of Arsenal's supporters booing and calling for Wenger to be replaced.
"I would like to know who is going to replace him?
"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. The competition is far greater now.
"When Arsenal and ourselves were going head-to-head, that went on for about eight years.
"It is a bit unfair of course, [the criticism] but who understands fairness and unfairness today?
"It is quite a cynical world. Supporters are far less easy to please than they were 20 years ago. But Arsenal answered everybody back on Wednesday [beating Udinese to qualify for the Champions League]. A lot of people thought they would go out. I didn't. I thought they would win it. The game on Sunday will be another stepping stone for them."
In recent years the rivalry between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger has tempered somewhat, and in 2009 they actually came across as long-time friends. Such was the cordiality between the two veteran managers.
Of course, this friendship seems to have blossomed the further Arsenal has slipped from the title picture, as neither manager has had any real or fake reasons to have a pop at each other.
However, just as Ferguson seems to have softened up on Wenger, he has come back and hit the Arsenal manager with something of a knockout blow, by declaring that he would never have allowed Manchester United to go five years without a trophy.
"I would not have allowed it to happen," Ferguson told The Observer before Sunday's home game against the Gunners.
"The press would have played their part and you expect that, but I could not have contemplated these things."
"Arsène has got his way of managing and I have got mine.
"You do the best with what you believe in and that is what Arsène is trying to do.
"I don't know exactly what his philosophy is, but for a long period he had a group of good young French players but that seems to have dried up a little bit.
"Teams go in cycles and you just have to hope that you are part of that cycle.
"For years it was Arsenal and ourselves competing for the title.
"We have always been part of that cycle."
When the United legend was asked could he go five years without a trophy, he simply replied, "Not at this club."
Arsene Wenger has come under increasing pressure over the last three seasons, as his tactics and philosophies have been questioned at almost every corner by Arsenal's fans.
Recent polls by the Arsenal Supporters Trust suggest that Gunners fans are beginning to fall out of love with the Frenchman.
According to the Arsenal Supporters Trust poll (h/t Daily Express), a whopping 69 percent of Arsenal fans reckon that Wenger's football philosophy takes too much precedence over winning trophies, while 42 percent of fans feel that if the club finish the 2011-12 season trophy-less, Le Prof will have taken the club as far as he can.
There is no way around it: This is a make-or-break season for the club.
Arsenal got over their first major hurdle of the season last Wednesday, when they beat Udinese in Italy to qualify for the Champions League.
As in any dark period, heroes come from otherwise unseen sources, and that was very much the case in Udine as new signing Gervinho and Wojiech Szczesny literally played out of their skins. They played like the Champions League qualifier was the very last game they would ever play.
The duo came through for their manager when many, including Arsenal fans, were expecting the Gunners to fail. And now Arsene Wenger has learned a little bit more about his team; about who accepts pressure and uses it to further their game, and those who freeze under the spotlight.
It speaks volumes about the kind of pressure that Wenger is under, here we are in just week three of the new Premier League season and already some Arsenal fans are calling for his head.
Last week, in the defeat to Liverpool at the Emirates, a massive contingent of Arsenal fans chanted "spend your f***ing money Wenger", while another section in front of the press box called for Wenger to be replaced with Bolton's Owen Coyle.
As it stands Arsenal have just one point from their opening two fixtures, while United have taken all six—including a demolition of Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford last Monday.
The upcoming Manchester United vs. Arsenal game will give all and sundry a chance to observe the two great managers philosophies first hand.
Both bosses can read the direction of the wind beautifully, and seem to have a second sense when it comes to signing potential stars. However a major difference arises where these veterans are concerned.
Sir Alex Ferguson recognises how important an old head is on the training ground, the dressing room and, more importantly, on the pitch.
Fergie knows that he does not have all the answers, and that some solutions can only be passed on by players who have suffered in the white hot heat of battle. This is the very reason he keeps players like Giggs, Scholes, Neville, and Ferdinand around, players who have gone past their best days and who will now only be used as squad players, but players who have decades of experience that simply cannot be replaced.
Contrast the current setup at United where Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have begun second apprenticeships, if you will, under Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, to Arsenal's current midfield situation where Frimpong has to look to Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey for advice.
In one simple swoop all the frailties of Wenger's transfer policy is laid bare, while Ferguson's looks astute, wise and most importantly it looks as if United do not care about the bottom line.
This, of course, could not be further from the truth, but whereas Arsenal seem to use players to drive their profit margins, United use trophies to drive theirs.
Defeat on Sunday to Manchester United would virtually rule Arsenal out of the title race before August has even ended, as it would mean they would almost have to go the rest of the season unbeaten to claim the title. That simply won't happen with this current inception of the Wenger model, so expect things to get harder for Wenger over the coming months.
The Arsenal transfer philosophy, so often hailed as the right model, has been shown up for exactly what it is. It is a profit making system for clubs without the ambition of winning trophies, and right there the flaws in it are revealed. Football fans don't understand any language other than "winning."
This article was previously published on Premier League Report.
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