Matches between the Red Devils and the Gunners were crucial to the development of the Premier League, says the former United boss
Alex Ferguson believes the rivalry between his great Manchester United team and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal “made” the Premier League.
Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles at United but was regularly pushed close by the Gunners, with old rival Wenger set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season.
The pair experienced a ferocious rivalry but have since built a friendship, and Ferguson hailed the Frenchman’s impact in the development of the Premier League in the 1990s.
“Although the Premier League started in 1992-93, that rivalry became the highlight of the league season,” Ferguson told United Review ahead of Wenger’s last visit to Old Trafford as Arsenal boss on Sunday.
“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.”
Although Arsenal have stagnated in the latter period of Wenger’s near 22-year spell at the club, Ferguson accepts he had to learn some lessons from the 68-year-old, who won three Premier Leagues between 1997-98 and 2003-04.
“When Arsene came to Arsenal, he changed a lot of the eating habits and fitness regimes at the club,” Ferguson said.
“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.
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“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.”