One of Ferguson's proudest Man United achievements may be shared by Arsenal's Wenger

Scholes V Fulham

After the silverware, it's all about transforming teenagers into footballing superstars.

One of the most captivating rivalries in British football from the last score of years was fought between two managers — Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger.

When the bespectacled Frenchman arrived in England as an unknown, unheralded coach in October, 1996 from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus, Ferguson was unimpressed: 'He comes over here from Japan and tries to tell us how to run English football.'

The monopoly Manchester United built on domestic competition in England was threatened, though, and between 1996 and 2005, Arsenal — under Wenger's tutelage — collected three league titles and four FA Cups.

During that spell, relations between the two top coaches continued to sour and fixtures competed between them had it all: accusations from Ferguson that Wenger threatened to fight him, Pizzagate, a flying boot that sparked the beginning of the end of David Beckham's playing days in England. And, in 2005, a call for calm from the Metropolitan Police who believed the tensions between the two could spell trouble in the terraces.

Since then, as Arsenal struggled to compete while Chelsea and, latterly, Manchester City both rose, Ferguson and Wenger have grown to tolerate, and even respect the other, with Sir Alex admiring Arsene's insistent adherence to his own footballing creed and Wenger lauding Ferguson when the Scotsman announced his retirement. Wenger called it an 'unbelievable achievement and a fantastic career.'

Now, with Ferguson, 71, reflecting on the dynasty he left to David Moyes, one of his proudest achievements may be something Wenger feels too when looking at his own Arsenal project, one which has seen talents such as Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs thrive while offering a platform for even younger players with high potential like Chuba Akpom and Benik Afobe.

'After the trophies, both domestic and European, my proudest achievement is the culture of youth development that we created in the best traditions of Matt Busby's vision for the club. Wonderful players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville set the standard, but there have been and will be plenty more,' Ferguson said, as reported in the end-of-season review published earlier this week by the Premier League.

Busby's vision of youth development was pioneering in the early 1950s, just like it is now, as clubs would often recruit players from other clubs. Initially trained by Joe Armstrong, the Busby Babes included supremely-talented players like Duncan Edwards and eventual World Cup winners like Bobby Charlton.

Just like how Busby benefited from developing top youth, Ferguson gained an advantage from his own Fledglings, namely the Class of '92 and a few subsequent prodigies… players like Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville.

The Glaswegian continued: 'There has been a Manchester United Academy graduate in every one of my teams. Our Under-21s won the inaugural Barclays U21 Premier League this season with eight players from within 21 miles of Old Trafford. This is the type of commitment to progressing home grown players that the Elite Player Performance Plan will deliver.'

In a closing statement, Ferguson urged other clubs to invest in their academies as it will, in the future, allow the whole of the English game to flourish: 'There are talented boys throughout this country and given the right training, environment and opportunity there is no reason why the whole English game can't benefit from the hard work and investment of the clubs.'

image: © Magnus D

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