Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United’s famous battles with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal during his reign “made the Premier League”.
In an exclusive interview with United Review, the official programme for Wenger’s last meeting with the Reds as Gunners boss, the Scot explains why the matches would attract attention from around the globe.
As the two clubs went toe-to-toe for the top honours, the rivalry became intense with the games guaranteed to be exciting and fiercely competitive. Yet there was still a healthy respect between the two bosses, even though they were driven to succeed at the time.
“Although the Premier League started in 1992/93, that rivalry became the highlight of the league season,” said Sir Alex. “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.”
Sir Alex has also likened the challenge posed by the Gunners back then to the threat of being overtaken on the road. Wenger was bringing fresh ideas to the north London club and the gauntlet was laid down on several occasions as he secured two Doubles.
“When Arsene came to Arsenal, he changed a lot of the eating habits and fitness regimes at the club,” added Sir Alex. “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.”