When Arsenal hosted Manchester United, it was to be a battle of the two longest serving managers in the Premiership. Arsene Wenger has been at the helm in north London for 15 years, with Sir Alex Ferguson preceding him by 10 years at Old Trafford. Gone are the days when two used to snarl at each other and could barely bring each other to smile let alone shake hands with one another. Over the years, their relationship has mellowed, and is now one of respect as was witnessed with Wenger’s pitch side move to the United dug out to offer a pre-match smile and a strong handshake to Ferguson ahead of the two sides clash at the Emirates. After a poor league start Wenger has been under pressure this season, with sections of Arsenal fans voicing concerns at the club’s transfer policy and the direction that the club is now pursuing.


However one of Wenger’s biggest defences against the boo boys was mounted by Ferguson who argued that fans should remember what he has achieved on the pitch, and also the delivering a 60,000 seater state of the art home. The Scot makes some good points, but worryingly for the Gunners, in the eight years since they last clinched the Premiership title, Ferguson has guided United to being no less than four Premiership titles. Could Ferguson’s amiable stance stem from knowing, that Wenger no longer poses the threat of seasons past? Gone are the days when an Arsenal v Manchester United would have silverware or a title up for grabs, Ferguson is more pre-occupied with the noisy neighbours down the road than any challenge emanating from the red half of north London. Sunday proved the point.


Both Arsenal and United had key players absent, but as is his way, Ferguson could call upon personnel to plug the gaps – Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling came in for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and coped at the centre of the United defence, much more ably than Johan Djourou did at right back for the Gunners. Antonio Valencia and Robin Van Persie had seen the score register at 1-1, and with his side in the ascendancy; Wenger chose to make possibly the most controversial decision of his time in England. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had terrorised the United defence, giving Patrice Evra a torrid time in particular.


The 18 year old forward set up the Arsenal leveller and was at the fulcrum of everything his side created in the way that Theo Walcott seems unable to do. With 14 minutes remaining, rather than replacing the ineffectual Walcott, Wenger replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrey Arshavin, a move greeted with unprecedented booing and chants of “ you don’t know what your doing,” from the Arsenal fans. With the Russian then exposed when Danny Welbeck lashed in the winner, the fans fears had been confirmed, as Arsenal registered their third consecutive Premiership defeat. The Arsenal manager refused to give the reason for the crucial change, but taking off your best outfield player smacked of the naivety of a novice. If every manager was as cordial in assisting Ferguson, then United will never have any complaints.