Ferguson pays tribute to old rival Wenger

‘The biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years’

 Arsene Wenger, who was appointed in 1996, will take charge of his 1,000th Arsenal match tomorrow afternoon. Photograph: PA Wire

Arsene Wenger, who was appointed in 1996, will take charge of his 1,000th Arsenal match tomorrow afternoon. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Alex Ferguson has praised old rival Arsene Wenger ahead of the Frenchman’s 1,000th match as Arsenal manager and believes his achievement is proof that stability at a club is vital.

Wenger will become just the fourth manager — after Sir Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Ferguson himself — to reach the historic landmark when the Gunners take on Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

The 64-year-old first took charge of the north London club on October 1, 1996 and has overseen one of the best periods in their history, winning three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

His success with Arsenal often led to several run-ins with former Manchester United boss Ferguson and although the pair often traded barbs, there has been mutual respect shown from both sides, with tensions cooling in recent years.

With Wenger now set to match Ferguson’s feat, the Scot was quick to pay tribute to a peer who had “survived together” with him.

“I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark,” Ferguson said in a League Managers Association statement.

“Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.

“Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other’s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides — Arsenal play the right way.

“Playing against them always presented special challenges that I burned many hours over the years thinking about. He has always been a conscientious member of our trade who makes it his business to help other managers.

“Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

Ferguson, perhaps with a nod in the direction of his former club United, also believes the landmark is further proof that stability at a club is crucial to success.

His successor David Moyes has struggled since taking charge in the summer, with the Red Devils in seventh in the Premier League, although they did overturn a two-goal deficit to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League earlier this week.

Ferguson added: “Overall this achievement once again shows what stability can bring to a football club and without doubt he has created a permanent legacy during his 1,000 matches with the club.”

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