Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson spoke of his admiration for Arsenal on Friday as he congratulated old foe Arsene Wenger for reaching his 1,000th game in charge.
The pair, now friends, had an intense rivalry as managers and did not speak to each other for five years after a match at Old Trafford in October 2004 ended a record 49 match unbeaten run by Arsenal.
“I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark,” the Scot said in a statement issued on Friday by the League Managers Association ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League match at leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
“Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.
“Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other’s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides – Arsenal play the right way,” added Ferguson.
Ferguson, who retired last year after 26 years at United, said playing against Arsenal always presented special challenges “that I burned many hours over the years thinking about.
“Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years,” added the Scot.
“Overall this achievement once again shows what stability can bring to a football club and without doubt he has created a permanent legacy during his 1,000 matches with the club.”
Wenger, who was presented with a golden cannon by the Gunners on Friday, joins Ferguson as one of just four managers to reach 1,000 games with the same club in English football.
The Frenchman is the North London club’s most successful manager as well as the longest serving current boss in England.
Ferguson’s comments will also be welcomed by his successor and fellow-Scot David Moyes, who has come under fire for United’s poor showing in his first season in charge at Old Trafford.
Champions United are curre
ntly languishing seventh in the league, 18 points behind Chelsea. Arsenal are third, four points off the lead.
Jose Mourinho admires Wenger’s perseverance
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho took another sly dig at Arsene Wenger on Friday while expressing admiration for a rival he dubbed a “specialist in failure” only a month ago.
Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, when their French manager marks his 1,000th game in charge, Mourinho said he would like to emulate Wenger’s longevity.
“I admire him and I admire Arsenal,” the Portuguese told reporters.
Mourinho being Mourinho, he could not resist a sting in the tail to the praise for a manager whose side have not won a trophy since 2005.
“It is not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support their manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot,” he said.
“The tribute is to say that I believe any one of us (managers) would love to have the same privilege with our clubs. Could I stay for 1,000 games? I would like to, but it’s very difficult.
“It’s even more difficult in modern football. If I can reach 500 with Chelsea it would be fantastic.”
Mourinho is in his second spell at Chelsea, returning last June after a first stint that began in 2004 and ended in 2007 following a fallout with billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
In his first stint, the Portuguese won the 2005 and 2006 Premier League titles, the FA Cup in 2007 and the League Cup twice.
Chelsea currently lead the league with a four point advantage over Arsenal and Wenger needs no extra motivation to beat them at Stamford Bridge after dismissing Mourinho’s comments last month as “silly” and “disrespectful”.