As Arsene Wenger pays his last visit to Old Trafford as Arsenal manager, Manchester United is pulling out the stops for its longtime foe.
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Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho presented Wenger with a silver gift before the match, and the Old Trafford crowd issued a loud salute to the Frenchman.
It was a transcendental moment near a pitch which often distracts from the commonality of its actors.
United also released a video of Ferguson, one of his fiercest rivals turned friends, discussing Wenger’s massive career.
In it, Ferguson praised Wenger’s “absolutely fantastic” career and said the Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry defined the Premier League’s first stanza.
“I relished them in a certain way, but always with a bit of trepidation because you have to win those matches. I think it made the Premier League. It was the highlight for 7-8 years, head-to-head, toe-to-toe, and the feeling was whoever won that was gonna win the league.”
Ferguson relayed that Wenger and he now go to dinner every year at a coaching banquet, and are quite fond of each other.
He then reflected on learning about Wenger. Ferguson said he was always looking around for threats to United’s crown, and Wenger’s arrival was a bit different.
“Arsene just appeared from nowhere, came from Japan,” Ferguson said. “He brought a different way of managing his football club in terms of diet and training regimes he had. It raised the antennae of ourselves in the sense that I’ve got competition here. What are they doing that we maybe should do ourselves? It’s one of these things you should always try to progress whether it’s one degree, one percent or two percent. We had to do that because they were formidable sides.”