Many media commentators are pushing one Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) as the contender for manager of the decade. If that accolade is based upon the number of Premiership titles (11) and Champions League successes (2) then yes, SAF is by far the most successful manager of all the Premier League since its inception. This is however an artificial assessment and one which is based upon unfair parameters in my view. Remember that for the majority of the tenure of SAF, Manchester United was the world’s richest club based upon its worldwide franchise. It is my opinion that these riches have not been used as wisely as they could have been. SAF because of his win at all costs attitude and also based upon being able to buy the best players had a clear advantage. The many flaws of SAF have been conveniently hidden by the media circus’s adulation and love affair with all things Manchester United. One must also question the arrogant temperament of the Scotsman who managed to lose two very experienced professionals Jap Stamm and David Beckham under less than satisfactory circumstances. SAF has also seen it fit during his tenure to boycott certain media broadcasting companies, treat the FA Cup with utter contempt, and all this coming from a knight of the realm who should have better moral standards.
SAF also started his glory trail 10 full years before Arsene Wenger came to Highbury. The founding of the premier league in 1992 enabled this manager who was on the verge of being sacked by his own board in 1990, to flourish. The relative weakness of his opponents during the early years of the Premier League saw a rampant United sweep all the teams before it. Liverpool, England’s most successful club were sidelined and only the Yorkshire versus Lancashire rivalry remains. Indeed before Arsene Wenger arrived SAF had already collected three premiership titles. Manchester United being the richest club could afford to buy the most expensive players, they had in effect set the method for acquiring titles. The league championships were effectively bought. Soon other clubs soon realised that if they could similarly throw money at the target then the rewards would come. Blackburn Rovers steel tycoon Sir Jack Walker did that and they were champions in 1994/5
|Season||League Champions||2nd Place||Manager||Transfer In||Transfer out|
|1992-3||Manchester United||Aston Villa||SAF||£2,300,000||£1,935,000|
|1993-4||Manchester United||Blackburn Rovers||SAF||£3,850,000||£1,000,000|
|1994-5||Blackburn Rovers||Manchester United||K Daglish||£13,650,000||£1,550,000|
|1995-6||Manchester United||Newcastle United||SAF||£8,750,000||£5,850,000|
|1996-7||Manchester United||Newcastle United||SAF||£5,000,000||£8,700,000|
|1997-8||Arsenal||Manchester United||A Wenger||£20,250,000||£10,120,000|
|2005-06||Chelsea||Manchester United||J Mourinho||£111,900,000||£20,800,000|
*(figures from transfer league)
Before everyone accuses me of bias it would be helpful if one analyses the resources available and how they were utilised. Then a different picture emerges.
Total spends 1996-2009
Manchester United = 387,200,000 spend 254,550,000 sales, net spend 132,650,000 with 8 titles equals 16,581,250 cost per Premiership title.
Arsenal = 269,940,000 spend 237,574,000 sales, net spend 32,366,000 with 3 titles
Equals 10,788,667 cost per title gained
A clear win for Arsene Wenger who is ruthlessly efficient with the funds available. That makes him superior to SAF as a football manager in my opinion. or perhaps an extra five million pounds on each title is worth it who knows, in terms of sponsorship deals for the club and enhanced profitability. The football business is money driven in one sense, however football remains a sport, and surely it the technical excellence of playing the game that should determine the best club? Forgive me for being an old romantic on that issue.
A traditional football manager runs the club and is responsible for all player transfers and contracts. The manager is tasked to try and get the club to the highest league position and with it any honours. The manager is also required to be an Ambassador not only of his club but the governing league of which he is a member. When one looks at the legacy or influence on the game in general what is SAF to be remembered for? Success only and a desire to win at costs. Arsene Wenger on the other hand has changed the face of football into a skillful and beautiful art form. People want to see football played “The Arsenal way” Arsene Wenger has propelled the cause of youth development and with his training methods has realized the potential of many players. SAF on the other hand bought many off the shelf ready and experienced players often with catastrophic consequences if one looks at the purchases of Veron and Gemba Gemba. Arsene Wenger is visionary guru of the game, but he can also be criticized for not being able to win back to back titles and Vermaelen and Sol Campbell apart, is totally blind when it comes to centre backs. So again in terms of costly poor purchases SAF has no equal.
So I hope that any non Arsenal fans reading this will now be able to look beyond the FA and media bias towards Manchester United and see objectively that Arsene Wenger on the facts alone related to the pound for pound performance of a football manager, and the legacy left behind, is a better manager than SAF. However if your criteria involve only the absolute number of honours gained with no regard to expense or the morals of the game, then SAF has to be your man. In terms of the Ambassadorial role to football in general and the community in particular. Arsene Wenger is a superior role model compared to the brash arrogance of SAF.
This as always is only my opinion, but I would be grateful to hear yours.