By Matt Allen
Following Arsene Wenger’s recent criticism of Manchester United’s transfer policy, I felt compelled to reminisce about a few home truths for the legendary French football encyclopaedia. A man often referred to as “The Professor” with a footballing brain the size of a football itself should surely know when his arguments are moot and his conclusions less than sound.
Wenger was quoted as saying:
“Most of the clubs who have been successful are clubs who have done that well. You can take Barcelona or Man United, who had a generation and built their success on players who came from within”.
“These are our values and it is our DNA and it’s important we keep that”.
“With United’s success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience for them to continue what they did”.
This, less than a month before the start of the season is a well-rehearsed tactic by football managers; the early mind games. Started this summer by a certain Mr Mourinho in snapping up the woefully under-performing Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco. Surely anything Van Gaal can do, he can do better. But it is Wenger’s poke at the footballing dynasty of United that has riled a fair few fans up. Just a few facts for you here Mr Wenger:
- Throughout last season Manchester united had 14 academy players play in the first team. These ranged from seasoned pros like Darren Fletcher, players that had been around for a time like Tom Cleverly and recent breakthroughs such as Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard. Not to mention the inclusion of Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson (already household names).
- This is double the amount any other team has entrusted its graduates with first team football in the entire Premier League.
- Ironically, Manchester United have in-fact had an academy graduate playing in every consecutive first team game since October 30th. A total of 75 years or if you prefer 3,623 games.
- Arsenal, on a number of occasions, have fielded entirely foreign first elevens and their own youth was hardly trusted upon Wenger’s arrival given that the first thing he did was go out and buy Henry, Bergkamp and co, leaving players like John Hartson to find alternative employers.
I am not saying for one second that Wenger doesn’t have a point about the way that football is going. It’s a brand now, big business. One where the slightest error can prove costly (take for instance David Moyes). His calamitous reign at the helm of United forced the powers that be to act, and his swift removal was seen by some (club legend Gary Neville included) as a team that was losing touch with its identity. The last great footballing dynasty going the way of the corporations.
This, however, happened some time ago with the preposterous takeover by the glazer family syphoning in excess of £1 billion from the Old Trafford coffers to subsidise the debt incurred when they took over. The reasons the success continued to happen for United during this time are thus; Sir Alex Ferguson, The continued trust of youth players and the constant unwavering support from the fan-base. The Glazers, to their credit, stayed out of the way as success continued, however when Moyes’ men failed in achieving champions league qualification, (the bare minimum requirement) the axe was well and truly swung and dithering Dave was relieved of his duties.
Arsene Wenger must have looked at United’s performances that year and been quietly delighted. Here it was, what he had been waiting for, a chink in the armour, a weakening force, the chance to capitalise. Then Louis van Gaal managed to drag the Red Devils back into the Champions league places and once again United look like they may be back on top once again. The two years in between saw Arsenal take home two FA Cups and while this is a great achievement it has been a long time coming. A resurgent United is not what Wenger need right now and maybe his early mind games are a sign of this. Almost like seeing an iceberg in your path.