The news today that Sir Alex Ferguson will be retiring as manager of Manchester United at the end of the season means that the Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, will assume the mantle of the longest serving manager in the Football League. Arsene has been at the club for 16 years, ten fewer than the Man United chief.
This isn’t the first time Sir Alex has announced his retirement. Twelve years ago the Scot declared that the 2001/2 season would be his last. That decision was quickly reversed when the form of his team noticeably suffered, and the realisation hit him that he was still far too committed to leave. His enthusiasm renewed, he went on to notch up another six Premiership titles in the subsequent years.
Arsene Wenger is now roughly at the stage Sir Alex was then, in terms of length of service. Some commentators have wondered whether he still has the resolve to win trophies at Arsenal. He has certainly been receiving more criticism lately than at any other time in his managership. It could be said this is a pivotal time for the Arsenal legend. If he chose to call it a day, nobody could really blame him.
But at the same time, these are exciting times at The Emirates. The announcement yesterday of Arsenal’s sponsorship deal with Puma, the most lucrative in football by all accounts, reinforces the club’s financial buoyancy, and for the first time there are serious funds at the manager’s disposal. Should he so choose, Arsene could match anyone else’s offer for a player of his choice. He has the opportunity to build another team every bit as formidable as the “invincibles”. Will such a prospect rejuvenate the Arsenal boss?
It’s probably fair to say that Arsene and Sir Alex are two very proud men. The Man Utd manager has been able to exit on a high note, leaving his club in a winning position and well poised for future success. Surely Arsene would want to go out in a similar fashion.
Personally, I’m looking forward to a rejuvenated Arsene Wenger staying on long enough to eventually beat Sir Alex’s 26-year stint. If he does, the next ten years will be an exciting ride for Arsenal followers.