Why Wenger is wrong about Ferguson’s comeback chances
When they were slugging it out for Premier League supremacy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson seemed like unlikely allies.
Such was the fierce rivalry between the two men, Ferguson felt compelled to dedicate a chapter in his much publicised second autobiography, which was released this week, to “Competing with Wenger”.
Yet Wenger now appears close enough to his former adversary to suggest that coming out of retirement – a decision announced dramatically in the aftermath of United’s 20th league championship – is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Responding to Ferguson’s insistence that he would never manage again, Wenger was quoted by the BBC as saying: “In six months we will know more about that.
“You cannot rule it completely out. It is difficult to take a drug for 30 years and suddenly get rid of it.”
But, while it is unfashionable to take issue with the Gunners boss, on this occasion we have to make an exception because Ferguson’s recent actions are not in keeping with a man who is for turning.
For a start the Scotsman is currently on the Old Trafford board of directors in a lucrative ambassadorial role, so can legitimately claim to still have some sort of involvement in football.
Secondly, if the 71-year-old does have a change of heart like he did in 2002 when he aborted his first attempt at retirement, where would he go?
I don’t know about you, but I think we can rule out Liverpool if his words on Brendan Rodgers’s squad, Steven Gerrard, the Rafael Benitez era and his random attack on Jordan Henderson are anything to go by.
He could try his hand at international management, but Scotland’s fortunes are improving enough under Gordon Strachan.
Furthermore, we already know how Ferguson would get on as he couldn’t take a talented Tartan Army beyond the group stages of the Mexico ’86 World Cup.
Interim Manchester United manager if the David Moyes experiment doesn’t work out? Given that he endorsed the former Everton coach as his successor such a move, however unlikely, would not reflect well on Ferguson’s judgement.
It would also suggest to the players that, if you under-perform, then Sir Alex will ride to the rescue; having already surpassed his three score years and ten, United must move on from Ferguson at some point.
There are other significant reasons why an Old Trafford comeback would be both unwise and unexpected.
Wayne Rooney, arguably United’s best performer in a moderate start under Moyes, would almost certainly refuse to sign a new contract given the bad blood over whether or not the striker handed in a transfer request towards the end of last season.
Equally critical comments regarding former players like Roy Keane in the new autobiography goes against everything he has stood for considering Jaap Stam was slung out of the club shortly after releasing a book in 2001.
No longer would he be able to demand loyalty from his squad and tell players to keep club matters within the confines of the dressing room having lifted the lid on United matters in such an open fashion.
Fergie, minus his famous ability to cajole and control, would not be the force he still was up until his final season in charge.
With 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns and countless domestic cups won with the Red Devils – not to mention his Aberdeen achievements – Ferguson is undoubtedly one of the most successful managers from these shores.
But under current circumstances it is impossible to believe that he will come out of retirement and such a move can only cause harm to his considerable legacy