Why Arsene Is A Better Manager Than Ferguson

By on January 11, 2010

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.

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  1. Tommy

    January 12, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Wenger’s shrewdness is all about predicting and avoiding the inevitable collapse that is awaiting the teams in debt that can’t be eliminated. Even as the biggest sporting brand in the world, United will still struggle to find a buyer because of the accounting situation. With profit generated by our sensible structure, Arsenal are by far the healthiest club at the top of English football. I’m betting we’ll win a title in the next two seasons, there will be those who doubt, and those who just don’t have the option!

  2. Turbo

    January 12, 2010 at 9:29 am

    In gumboz 2 messages, we can really see that he’s bloody worried about MU future with SAF. Any wise person with straight mind will not speak like him. Good luck in 5 years time as SAF is waiting to throw all his messy problem to his next successor… Pls remember that “In Wenger WE Trust” & “In SAF WE Laugh & Worried”.

    • ArsenalStation

      January 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

      Exactly, Turbo. And then all his blind followers will blame the Glazers and the next guy.

    • Gumboz

      January 13, 2010 at 3:08 am

      Turbo, Turbo, you remind me of my Friends who are fanatics of Arsenal, you real made my day Turbo, I laughed my lungs out, for the record am not at all worried about Man U, whats there to be worried about.Man U is a Brand on everyone`’s lips, thats a fact. and tell me who doesnt want to be associated with big brands. Tell you what professionally i am an accountant and have looked at the balance sheet of Man U, its fat. Any investor will jump at the opportunity to be associated with the Brand.Goodwill alone is enough to attract anyone to invest there. You see turbo i support football not investments, i am concerned with the trophy cabinet and what happens on the field. If i support Investment then i will certainly be supporting Microsoft United.Wenger is a dangerous Economist who is stingy in investing in players to challenge Man U. Turbo tell me, what will make you really happy, if Arsenal wins trophies or if they make huge profits!!!! Now some of your paid pple are now saying you are right Turbo, they cant make their own analysis.
      Have a gooday Turbo!!!!!!!

      • ArsenalStation

        January 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

        I highly doubt you’re an accountant, Gumboz. I can’t imagine any accountant worth his weight calling United’s balance sheet fat. If it was so “fat” why are they now issuing a bond scheme, which effectively begs people and supporters to invest money into the club so they can refinance over half a billion pounds of debt?

  3. ArsenalStation

    January 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Obviously the title is a bit of a wind-up… what I am really comparing is each manager’s concern for their club as a whole, including, most importantly, it’s future. Perhaps it should have read: Why Arsene Cares More About His Club Than Ferguson.

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  5. Kay

    January 14, 2010 at 8:28 am

    On Manchester United’s debt, I quote our fellow United fan, BRACK66 from TeamTalk.com:
    “The Glazers have to pay £200M of PIK loans, which are their responsibility alone. Under the terms for the bond issue (which will wipe out the senior debt of £500M) the Glazers can only take out a dividend from the club, with which to repay the PIK loans, once a certain level of profit is achieved. Hence the move on Carrington. By ‘buying’ the facility from United, they then charge United a rental income. This they can then use to pay off the PIK loans, without relying on dividends from profit. Actually a shrewd move. Remember the Glazers own United, so ‘selling’ Carrington to them does not mean it no longer belongs to United. Also, the £48.2M of profit announced this week, is Red Football profit. The club will actually, when allowing for amortisation of goodwill acquired when the club was taken over and the non inclusion of debt repayment applicable to Red Football alone, make a profit of £125M for June 2009. The documents raised for the bond sale state that United has a cashflow of £116M. Of this, £70M will be used by the Glazers to pay some of the PIK loan, leaving that at a far more reasonable £130M. The remaining £46M, together with a revolving credit facility of £75M taken out by the club, will be given to Fergie to buy new players if he wishes. The situation at United is by no means as bad as the press make out! Cheers all. :-)”

  6. yasmin

    February 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    arsene wenger and fergurson you have been so rude to each other try to be nice and reply good stuff about each other and be good and that is the end and that is the end of my comment

  7. Hari

    March 3, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Folks – I am a die-hard Arsenal supporter based in Bangalore, India. I loved this article and thought it just reflected what I always thought of MANU – penny wise and pound foolish. I am sure they are winning trophies, but the future certainly is a big Q. I also see some of the influcencial players moving out from MANU soon – Giggs, Scholes, Nevill and Van Der Sar – without proper replacements in place. Top this up with an out of form Rooney and you may find yourself yearning for the top 4!

    Go Gunners!

  8. Arsenal fan

    May 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I dont understand why ferguson is considered a MANAGER when he has no financial sense. These people are at most called coach/football tactician. A real manager knows sound economics, business models, human resource policy and adopts proven project management methodology into their work. AW has a vision for the club for the future and planned meticulously on every step to fulfill his mission. Ask ferguson for his vision and he is probably limited to his formation the next game and players to bid for the next season. The emirates project itself can land AW a project manager job for any stadium construction projects anywhere.

    Arsenal reminds me of Canada where the finance ministry tries to balance their fiscal books aggressively and make sound investments to create jobs for the future without having to bailout their banks while Manchester reminds me of USA, who will end up the way of Greece if they still live in wonderland of exporting federal reserve notes.

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