Why Arsene Is A Better Manager Than Ferguson

The blame game continues at Old Trafford, though, admittedly, it’s not much of a game. Here’s how you play: Show you are a true xenophobic Red by blaming the Glazers for everything wrong with your club and the world in general. And, while a far smaller percentage of Arsenal supporters play the same game with Wenger, it is quite ironic when United supporters make fun of “Arsene Knows” and “In Arsene We Trust” signs considering the way they have they turned the other cheek and given Sir Alex a free ride regarding the tenuous future of their club.

Yes, it was horrible that the Glazers loaded £509.5m debt incurred through loans taken out to buy the club back onto the club’s books. It means that the supporters will eventually have to pay for the Glazers purchase of the club. But, it seems all too easy for United supporters to ignore Ferguson’s role in the fiscal uncertainty surrounding the future of their club.

At the time their club was taken over by the Americans, Ferguson faced a similar fiscal situation to Arsene. Both clubs had just incurred significant amounts of debt-United in the takeover and Arsenal in financing the stadium. Of course, these are two completely different types of debt-Arsenal’s debt was an investment that pays for itself, while United’s debt was not. But for my argument, the type of debt does not matter.

One of the things I love most about Arsene Wenger is his concern for the future of the club, echoed by Ivan Gazidis in his interviews with the BBC and Sky Sports (see video below for full 20-minute interview). It surely seems that Sir Alex does not have quite the same concern for the future of United, beyond his own retirement.

When faced with a mountain of debt, some estimates say close to £1bn, Sir Alex continued to spend £40+m every summer, with a seeming disregard for the future of the club. It seems that Ferguson is willing to do whatever it takes to win now, while he is in charge, and will leave the mess that, though he did not create it, he has helped perpetuate to his successors and succeeding generations of United supporters.

Surely, Sir Alex could’ve gone down the road that Arsene and Arsenal chose when faced with a similar financial situation. Arsene began a youth project designed to ensure competitiveness and long-term potential to avoid worsening the club’s finances. Arsene knew the club would be unlikely to win many trophies during this period, though we did reach Champions League and Carling Cup Finals. He was willing to sacrifice his own personal reputation in order to secure the future of the club beyond his own reign as Arsenal manager.

It’s this foresight and this concern for Arsenal as a club that is one of the things that makes Wenger a great manager. In his interview with Sky Sports, Ivan Gazidis said that it was important to the club to make sure that we are able to compete for top honours at home and in Europe for 10, 15, or 20 years. He said that the club wanted fathers who take their sons to see the club to be able to feel assured that their club will still be at the top-level of the Premier League and the Champions League when their sons have grown up. As a father of two, including a three-year old that wears Arsenal kits 3-4 days a week, sleeps in Arsenal pyjamas near every night, and can name most of the starting XI, I understand exactly what Ivan is talking about.

By contrast with Wenger, Ferguson appears to be someone who could care less what happens to United after he’s gone because that won’t have any effect on his own personal reputation. He continued to spend ridiculous sums of money on transfers, for players that proved disappointments, despite knowing his club’s financial situation. When Sir Alex said on Friday, “I don’t have any concerns about the financial situation,” he meant it.

And now, with United’s inability to spend as before, they are almost certainly looking at another post-Busby period following Ferguson’s retirement and it will be partly his own fault. But, I guarantee United fans won’t see it that way. In that way, they are even blinder followers of Ferguson than many Arsenal fans are of Wenger.

Having released some financial numbers today, United posted a £48m profit this year,but only due to the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo. But, you can’t sell a Ronaldo every year. That means that United are operating on a level that would have seen them lose over £30m this year, while their annual payments to merely service the interest on their debt is £41.9m. They are now being faced with the prospect of a £500m bond-scheme of the type Arsenal refused to issue last year. Surely, this is not a recipe for fiscal stability or long-term security. But, once again, the long-term cracks have been papered over in the short-term.

Managers who are at clubs long enough to change the culture inside of the club can also be judged by the state they leave their club in and what the club does in the years immediately following their departure. Arsene understands this and has spoken about it many times, and to his own detriment. Managers come and go, but supporters remain with the club and they are the ones that will be left behind to deal with the financial mess left by the Glazers and Ferguson.

Meanwhile, whether Arsene signs a new contract or not next year, he has re-signed 15 first-team players to new, longer contracts in the past 8 months. It’s all part of Arsene’s long-term vision for the club that this team be kept together for at least another 3-4 years, and I am just as confident as he is that, in that time, Arsenal will win both the league and the Champions League.

His going with youth and avoiding unsustainable debt will also reap its full rewards as United, Chelsea, and Liverpool struggle under the burden of their increasing debt. These clubs cannot spend money anymore like they have in the past and their financial situations can only improve with further frugality-especially considering the financial regulations UEFA expect to have in place by 2013 which would restrict European participation for clubs in serious debt.

Mark my words, and I have been saying this for a few years now, the financial chickens WILL come home to roost at all the other big 4 clubs. It is inevitable. And, when that happens, Arsenal will reap the benefits that Arsene’s foresight and youth project have sown for many years to come.