So, Arsene Wenger hasn’t won a trophy in over five years so thinks a tally of players who started their careers at Arsenal under him is something to brag about. It’s like the Arsenal fans who spend hours of their time on internet forums ‘showing off’ about how little money they’ve spent.
What do either of these things mean if you aren’t successful on the pitch? Not an awful lot. Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Liverpool, United and Chelsea have all won a cup since the last time Arsenal got to lift a trophy, and since their last title win in 2004, their league positions have been: 2nd, 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th and 3rd.
Arsene Wenger was just 7 years old when Sir Matt Busby first won the league with his Babes, a team of young lads who would have gone on to dominate football, on a domestic and European front, had their lives not been cut short by the Munich Air Disaster. Sir Matt Busby set out the blueprint for how United were to run their club. “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough,” our legendary manager famously said. “If you don’t put them in, you can’t know what you’ve got.”
These ideals were picked up and carried through by Sir Alex Ferguson, who has ensured that a proportion of our squad has always contained young lads who have made their way up the ranks at United.
“I’m privileged to have followed Sir Matt because all you have to do is to try and maintain the standards that he set so many years ago,” said Sir Alex.
When United sold Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis in the summer of 1995, replacing them with a load of young lads who had proved successful in the youth team, there were more than one or two raised eye-brows. When United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, Alan Hansen was scathing about our chances of success.
Gary Neville (20), Lee Sharpe (24), Nicky Butt (20), Paul Scholes (20), Roy Keane (24) and Phil Neville (18) all started at Villa Park, with David Beckham (20) coming on at half time and going on to score our only goal, and John O’Kane (20) coming on with over 30 minutes to play.
That team went on to win the Double at the end of that season, an incredible achievement for such a newly formed team, particularly one that was so young.
It is because of this I’m absolutely amazed that Arsene Wenger has claimed that, without doubt, he is the best manager in the world at bringing through young players. Not just because of the success our young players had in 1996 and beyond (it was only three years later that this team won the Treble, something no other English team has ever achieved), whilst his young team have failed to win a single trophy, but because Ferguson has followed on with Busby’s blueprint for the 14 years that followed on from our ’96 Double winners.
“Take the list of the players who started here. Johan Djourou, where has he started? Here. Senderos, where has he started? Clichy, where has he started? Gibbs? Where has he started? Fábregas? Where has he started? Song? Where has he started? Diaby has basically never played before at the top level. Ashley Cole. If you go back, it is unbelievable the number of players who started at this club.”
Cole and Cesc Fabregas, a product of the Barcelona youth set up, are the only top players he has listed. I find it fairly insulting that he would list the following players as those worth mentioning at having ‘brought through’.
Djourou turns 24 this year and couldn’t get in even Switzerland’s World Cup squad. Senderos is dreadful. Clichy is 25 and is third in line for his position in the French national team. Song and Diaby certainly wouldn’t get in United or Chelsea’s starting line-up. Whilst Clichy is the best of the lot, he’s still not as good as Ashley Cole or Patrice Evra.
Still, when asked if he believes his record is better than any other manager, Wenger said: “Of course. There is nobody else in the world. Take the list of the players who started here.”
When asked about Sir Alex Ferguson’s record, he was very dismissive. “When I arrived nearly all their team had started [at United]. Not recently.”
Is Wednesday night recent enough? Wes Brown, Rafael Da Silva, Bebe, Darron Gibson, Gabriel Obertan and Federico Macheda all ‘started’ their career at United. If Song, Clichy and Diaby can go on Wenger’s list, despite the fact all of them already had at least a season under their belts playing in a first team in France before joining Arsenal, there’s plenty of players Ferguson can claim to be his too.
If Wednesday isn’t recent enough, let’s look at last weekend against Liverpool. John O’Shea, Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Federico Macheda, Paul Scholes and Darron Gibson all played, with Wes Brown on the bench.
But this is too vague and needs to be looked at in greater detail. So, looking at the most recent season, we will show how many players, who started their career played for Arsenal and United, featured in the Premiership last season. We will also look at how many games they played to get an idea of how important they are to their team. Finally, we will look at their average age, to see whether United’s career starting players are predominately the kids of ’96 or not.
30 players represented United in the league last season, 15 of them started their career with United. (Danny Welbeck, Rafael da Silva, Fabio da Silva, John O’Shea, Jonny Evans, Mame Biram Diouf, Darren Fletcher, Gary Neville, Gabriel Obertan, Wes Brown, Federico Macheda, Ryan Giggs, Darron Gibson, Paul Scholes and Ritchie de Laet)
% of players representing United in the league who started their careers there: 50
Appearances: Danny Welbeck 5, Rafael da Silva 8, Fabio da Silva 5, John O’Shea 15, Jonny Evans 18, Mame Biram Diouf 1, Darren Fletcher 30, Gary Neville 17, Gabriel Obertan 7, Wes Brown 19, Federico Macheda 5, Ryan Giggs 24, Darron Gibson 15, Paul Scholes 28 and Ritchie de Laet 2.
Total appearances: 199
Age: Danny Welbeck 19, Rafael da Silva 20, Fabio da Silva 20, John O’Shea 29, Jonny Evans 22, Mame Biram Diouf 22, Darren Fletcher 26, Gary Neville 35, Gabriel Obertan 21, Wes Brown 30, Federico Macheda 19, Ryan Giggs 36, Darron Gibson 22, Paul Scholes 35 and Ritchie de Laet 21.
Average age: 25
28 players represented Arsenal in the league last season, 12 of them started their career with Arsenal. (Gael Clichy, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Carlos Vela, Armand Traoré, Vito Mannone, Kieran Gibbs, Craig Eastmond, Jack Wilshere).
% of players representing Arsenal in the league who started their careers there: 43
Appearances: Gael Clichy 24, Alex Song 26, Cesc Fabregas 27, Abou Diaby 29, Nicklas Bendtner 23, Denilson 20, Carlos Vela 11, Armand Traoré 9, Vito Mannone 5, Kieran Gibbs 3, Craig Eastmond 4, Jack Wilshere 1.
Total appearances: 182
Age: Gael Clichy 25, Alex Song 23, Cesc Fabregas 23, Abou Diaby 24, Nicklas Bendtner 22, Denilson 22, Carlos Vela 21, Armand Traoré 20, Vito Mannone 22, Kieran Gibbs 20, Craig Eastmond 19 and Jack Wilshere 18.
Average age: 22
If you then take a look at United players who were given their début by Sir Alex who are currently playing Premiership football: Phil Bardsley, Chris Eagles, Ryan Shawcross, Jonathan Spector, Phil Neville, Kieran Richardson, David Jones, David Healy, Jonathan Greening, Danny Higginbotham, Danny Pugh, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Frazier Campbell, Danny Wellbeck, Mame Biram Diouf and Tom Cleverley. Not forgetting the likes of Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi in Spain.
That’s obviously not taking in to account David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Keith Gillespie, and so many more.
If you then look at Arsenal players who were given their début by Arsene Wenger who are currently playing Premiership football: Matthew Upson, Ashley Cole, David Bentley, Kolo Toure, Jermaine Pennant, Sebastian Larsson, … I’ll rely on Arsenal fans to help me update this section.
The important point to add is the earliest any of the ex-United players mentioned came through, with the exception of Ryan Giggs, was the start of 1995-1996 season, just a year before Wenger joined Arsenal. Ferguson hasn’t had an advantage where this is concerned thanks to him being at the club longer, these players have through during Wenger’s time at Arsenal.
So, whilst Wenger claims to be the best, whilst he says we should look at the list comparing players, I’m pretty sure he can’t claim to have given a début to 30+ players who currently play in the Premiership.
Manchester United Reserves: Premier Reserve League North Champions in 2010, Premier Reserve League National Champions in 2010, Manchester Senior Cup in 2008 and 2009, Lancashire Senior Cup in 2008 and 2009.
– Sir Alex Ferguson has more players in his current squad, playing in the Premiership, who have started their careers at United, than Arsene Wenger does players who represent Arsenal in the Premiership who started their careers there.
– Last season, players who started their careers at United played in more Premiership games than Arsenal players who started their careers there.
– The average age of players in the current squad who started their careers at United is 25. The average age of players in Arsenal’s current squad who started their careers there in 22.
– Arsene Wenger is wrong to claim that he has a better record than any other manager in the world at bringing through young players.
– Arsene Wenger is wrong to claim that Manchester United used to have a lot of players who started their careers at United, but recently, haven’t. Of the 15 players in our current squad who started their careers at United and represented us in the Premiership last season, 10 of them are 26-years-old or younger. To illustrate this point further, Fletcher, the oldest of this batch at 26, was 12-years-old when Wenger joined Arsenal.
There’s no denying that Wenger has done a great job of bringing through young players in his career but for him to claim that he is “of course” the best in the world at doing so is arrogance beyond belief, aside from being totally misguided. For him to also claim that since 1996 Sir Alex hasn’t put emphasis at starting players career is just ignorant. When you then consider that Wenger’s young players have won NOTHING, it just adds insult to injury over his remarks.
I’m not sure what has got in to Wenger recently, launching attacks on clubs and players on a weekly basis, and now this, but I would be inclined to agree with Harry Redknapp on this one, which is rare for me.
“When Arsene first came to England he was like a professor watching the game,” Redknapp said today. “All the other nutters were jumping up and down shouting and screaming, hollering and hooting and this man was not like those idiots. But it is affecting him now. He’s no longer sitting there. He is up there arguing with everybody. When you start losing a few games it all changes.”
All Wenger’s other odd behaviour is little to do with us but the comments on youth production could not be ignored, particularly when he directly names our club in his false claims.