Who won the Ferguson v Wenger war? We all know the answer to that - Fer-get about it

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson  

AS a man who’s just had a ‘significant’ birthday, any nostalgic look back at the glory days is more than welcome.

Cruel estimations may suggest I was at my best in the late 80s, but I’d prefer to believe my heyday was around the turn of the century, when Manchester United were flying high and I could drink four pints without dying a death the next day.

Back then, the biggest – probably only – rivals to United’s supremacy in England were Arsenal, and the clashes between the sides were almost always epic matches as well as huge occasions.

I distinctly recall going mad in a casino in Alice Springs as a Roy Keane double gave United victory – and kept Patrick Vieira in his pocket – a few months after the treble was secured in 1999.

And then there was the time I stumbled into a hostelry a few minutes late for a Sunday lunchtime kick-off to find United 4-1 up and discover that, unlike me, and for a change, Dwight Yorke hadn’t been out on the Saturday night.

That eventual 6-1 win wasn’t even mentioned in Fergie vs Wenger: The Feud, a well-timed documentary which was shown last Monday night on Channel Five.

Younger viewers might have been shocked to learn that Arsene Wenger used to be so much more than the bumbling Theresa May lookalike who can’t do up his coat we see today.

The Frenchman has tarnished his legacy at Arsenal by refusing to go when his stock was high, one of the big differences with Alex Ferguson, the United boss he openly despised when their teams were sweeping everyone else aside.

Channel Five tried to get under the skin of the rivalry, just as the two bosses who were polar opposites got under each others.

Ferguson, a hard-nosed mix of Govan steel, Aberdeen granite and whisky from all over Scotland, was just getting used to dominating when the articulate, debonair ‘Professeur’ Wenger arrived from France, via Japan.

“Arsene who?” enquired Arsenal fans of the man they would come to idolise – and then pity some years later.

Fergie soon found out what his rival was all about, and didn’t like what he found, something attested to by former Red Devils stars Paul Scholes, Phil ‘We couldn’t afford Gary’ Neville and Andy Cole, who was bedecked in a shirt rejected by Woody from Toy Story.

Behind the scenes footage showed just how agitated Ferguson had become.

“He’s f*****g full of f*****g shite,” he said of one unnamed Gunners star. 

Each clip had more effs than a Stefan Effenburg appreciation society meeting, or indeed a Carl Frampton post-fight interview from the Eff Eff Eee Arena.

Wenger came across as the more measured of the two on the exterior, but his former players Martin Keown and Lee Dixon left no doubt that the hatred was as strong within the former Highbury changing rooms.

Great games and less savoury (is pizza savoury?) moments were recalled, with the chest hair of Ryan Giggs, Ruud van Nistelrooy getting a slap round the horse’s head, an Italian food fight and a row in a tunnel (sounds like a great night) all getting an airing.

Yet such an epic rivalry could never be adequately covered in an hour, and especially not when the makers crammed it full of talking (not horses) heads – mostly journalists with little to add – rather than action.

Fergie vs Wenger: The Feud promised much and did provide a welcome reminder of the glory days, both mine and United’s, but just like Wenger it started well before petering out.

The programme ended with a debate about which of those modern-day Godfathers won the feud. We all know the answer to that.

Ferg-et about it. 

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access