It’s all coming to an end, folks.
Arsene Wenger’s finally hanging up his long coat, with the curtain closing on his 22-year reign at Arsenal at the end of the season.
And while we’re not sure whether he’ll be remembered for his brilliant early success or later failure, one thing we’ll always cherish is the rivalry he had with Man United’s Alex Ferguson back in the day.
Fergie’s gone of course, having retired back in 2013 after 26-odd years in charge and it’s nothing but love between the two these days.
Just look at the respect between them ahead of the weekend’s clash at Old Trafford.
But let’s stack them up against each other one last time, and have a look how each got on in their final year at United and Arsenal respectively.
Ferguson really wanted to win the Premier League title at the start of the 2012-2013 season, having seen Man City snatch it away it dramatic fashion in the season before (AGGUEEERRROOOOOO).
So he did everything he could to snap up Robin Van Persie from Arsenal that summer, beating City to the Golden Boot winner with a £24million bid.
The Dutchman was a resounding success at United of course, but the less said about the other signings he made that summer, the better.
Shinji Kagawa never really got going at Old Trafford after joining from Dortmund, and he was eventually flogged back to the Germans two years later, while Alexander Buttner and Angelo Henriquez fell into footballing obscurity.
Nick Powell never did become the ‘next Paul Scholes’ and has only just started to make a name for himself again with Wigan this season.
Wilfried Zaha was Fergie’s final ever signing – bought from Crystal Palace and loaned back for the remainder of the season – but wasn’t particularly fancied by David Moyes.
It’s worth noting that some fella called Paul Pogba left on a free transfer to Juventus that year – wonder what happened to him?
Wenger’s certainly splashed the cash in his final season, coughing up for Alexandre Lacazette over the summer.
The French forward has had a mixed first season in England, but could be a big star for them next season.
And we can’t decide what to make of Sead Kolasinac this season, but he’s still not been bad for a free transfer.
January was a lot more fun.
While we have to wait and see what becomes of Konstantinos Mavropanos, the signings of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will no doubt please and excite fans and could become mainstays in the side in the coming years.
It’s worth noting that some of Wenger’s former favourites left the building this season, including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who’s flourished at Liverpool this term – as well as Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.
There was also that Alexis-something, but we don’t talk about him.
Ferguson’s United dominated the league in his final year, with Van Persie more-or-less carrying his band of players to the title.
In fact, United were so dominant that they secured the title by April, eventually finishing 11 points ahead of City.
There were some landmark moments in that final year too, with Ferguson’s 1000th league game coming in the 3-2 win over Southampton (thanks to an RVP hat-trick, of course).
Van Persie was also on target in the final minute at the Etihad to secure an important 3-2 win in the Manchester derby, although Fergie’s final clash with City ended in a 2-1 defeat.
As for his final game in charge?
It was an incredible 5-5 draw away to West Brom, with future forward Romelu Lukaku netting a hat-trick against the champions.
There’s been no such joy for Arsenal in Wenger’s final season, with the Gunners needing a miracle to finish in the top four while their current position of sixth is currently under-threat from Burnley.
They snatched the Community Shield away from Chelsea in the opening week of the season, but early defeats to Stoke and Liverpool quickly silenced any talk of a title win
Things were at the worst at the start of 2018, with defeats to Bournemouth, Swansea, Spurs, City and Brighton. At this rate, top six sounds about right.
FA Cup/League Cup
Chelsea were the ones to spoil United’s party in the cup competitions that year, knocking them out of the League Cup in a 5-4 thriller that went to extra-time.
They also took them out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage, drawing the match at Old Trafford 2-2 to set-up a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
It was a different story for Arsenal, who went all the way to the League Cup final only to be well and truly spanked by Man City to give Pep Guardiola his first piece of silverware in England.
As for the FA Cup? Knocked out in the third-round against Nottingham Forest, naturally.
Champions League/Europa League
United had Galatasaray, Cluj(?!) and Braga in their Champions League group that year, so it was no surprise to see them go through to the next round as table-toppers.
But next up was Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the round of 16.
The respect between Fergie and Mourinho was there to be seen, but the big headline prior to the game was Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford with Los Blancos.
United drew 1–1 at the Bernabeu thanks to a goal from Danny Welbeck, but it all went wrong in the second-leg when Nani was sent off in rather controversial circumstances.
Real eventually won 3-2, meaning Fergie never got to lift his third Champions League trophy at United.
Arsenal’s Europa League campaign this season is still ongoing, with a semi-final clash against the mighty Atletico Madrid standing in the way of Wenger’s final chance of winning a trophy in Europe with the Gunners.
They finished top of Group H, getting the better of Red Star, Koln and BATE, and were drawn against Swedish unknowns Ostersund in the round of 16.
They survived a second-leg scare to win 4-2 on aggregate, before smashing Milan home and away in the round of 16 and then overcoming CSKA in the quarter-finals.
But Atleti will be tough to beat.
It’s not really fair to judge Arsenal’s season just yet, as it’s not entirely over.
If they win the Europa League, then that’d certainly end Wenger’s long tenure on a high note.
Still, Fergie’s brilliant final Premier League title can’t be compared with Arsenal’s dismal campaign and that’s where it really matters, right?
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