• Premier League

Ferguson: Wenger brought out my competitive streak

ESPN staff
March 21, 2014
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Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to Arsene Wenger ahead of his 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal by admitting his old adversary brought out his competitive streak at Manchester United.

Wenger takes his team to Chelsea on Saturday in what will be a crucial Premier League clash, with Arsenal able to close the gap on the league leaders to one point, while they will still have a game in hand.

Thanks for standing by me

The Frenchman arrived to north London in 1996 © Getty Images
  • Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger reveals his pride, regrets and humility in a typically waspish take on reaching a landmark few of his counterparts could dream of
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Wenger, who arrived at Arsenal in 1996, will become one of only four men in the modern era of English football, including Sir Matt Busby, Ferguson and Dario Gradi to surpass the 1,000 game landmark at one club.

Ferguson, who enjoyed a long-standing rivalry with Wenger during his days as United manager, believes he has been a credit to the game.

"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 said in a League Managers Association statement.

"I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark. 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.

"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."

During his time at Arsenal, Wenger has earned a reputation for his shrewd transfer dealings, bringing in the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira and Cesc Fabregas for minimal fees before selling them on for vast profits.

Arguably his greatest ever signing, though, was Thierry Henry from Juventus in 1999, turning him from a winger into a striker that would go on to become the club's all-time record goal scorer.

Henry, who returned to Arsenal for a second spell on loan in 2012, has also moved to hail a manager he saw as a "father figure."

"I want to wish Arsene many congratulations on this incredible achievement. I have had the privilege and honour to play under him for many years at both Monaco and Arsenal," Henry told Sky Sports.

"To reach 1,000 games for one club is a historic achievement, but not a surprising one. He is one of the very best managers in the modern game.

"I have been fortunate to play for some extremely gifted coaches. I had Pep [Guardiola] at Barcelona and he has proved he is the best at the moment but Arsene is more than just a great manager to me because he was a father figure and a mentor.

"I will never forget his advice and guidance over the years and without him I wouldn't have achieved half the milestones in my career. He deserves all the accolades as he has had a huge impact on Arsenal Football Club and the lives of many players. Long may it continue."

Vieira, the captain of Wenger's 'Invincibles' side that went the whole Premier League season unbeaten in 2003-04, said in the Daily Mail of his former boss: "What was quite really impressive with Arsene is that I would go in his office really upset, really frustrated, wanting to make a point.

"I knew that I was right, so my ideas were clear about what I wanted to tell him. I would go into his office but when I came back out, it was always him who was right! He was really good at trying to change your mind and he did it in a calm, laid-back way."

Fabregas, another of Wenger's former captains, also had some kind words to say about the man who first brought him to England from Barcelona.

"I just want to say congratulations," he said in the Daily Mail. "You made such a big impact on so many players' careers, especially on mine. I owe you everything."

Despite having been at Arsenal for nearly 18 years, Wenger is reportedly set to sign a new contract at the club, with his current deal due to expire at the end of the season.

Former Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood believes Wenger still has the hunger to go on for far longer and build a new era of success at the club before he does finally decide to call it a day.

"He doesn't think his job is finished yet," Hill-Wood said in the Daily Telegraph. "I don't think his enthusiasm has diminished at all. I don't see him suddenly deserting and starting again at some other club."

Wenger: The story so far

Competition Played Won Drawn Lost For Against
League 667 387 165 115 1,259 627
FA Cup 89 61 15 13 165 70
League Cup 61 38 3 20 129 82
Champions League 165 83 38 44 259 166
UEFA Cup 11 6 2 3 22 11
Charity Shield/Community Shield 6 4 0 2 11 5
Total 999 579 223 197 1,845 961
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