Manchester United are the new Arsenal – a theory that started to emerge over the summer from the typical suppressed and desperate Arsenal fan and has materialised in to something far more real.
So are United really the new Arsenal? And if so does that make Jose Mourinho the new Arsene Wenger, the stubborn old dictator so set in his ways he can’t see he’s steering his mobility scooter straight in to the sea?
A couple of weeks ago I likened Mourinho to Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses, sat in a corner reciting old war stories to anyone bored enough to listen. Lo and behold we’ve seen Jose twice in the past week holding three fingers up at rival fans. First at Chelsea, reminding them of the titles he won for them. Then at Juve fans, reminding them of a treble he won for Inter nearly ten years ago.
Unfortunately, what Mr Wikipedia doesn’t realise is that every time he holds those three fingers up it’s a harsh reminder to United fans it’s three years of Mourinho and three years without getting close to a title.
Wenger was exactly the same. Undoubtedly one of the great Premier League managers, who had an arrogance and stubbornness born out of a very healthy Wikipedia page too. But by the time he’d retired it was fourteen years since his last title. Fourteen years of living off past successes!
Are United and Mourinho and Arsenal and Wenger the same then? Both big clubs managed by two of the greatest Premier League managers, who like a stubborn jar of pesto at the back of the fridge, will never accept they’re past their sell by date until someone takes a closer look and chucks them in the bin.
No. No they’re not.
For one, Wenger’s achievements were with Arsenal. This made it hard for the Arsenal board and some fans to pull the plug on Wenger’s career. Yes, over the years they thought about it, but every time he looked up at them with those puppy dog eyes that said “Invincibles” they’d turn around from the vets and cancel the lethal injection.
Mourinho’s past successes aren’t at United. All the Premier league titles, the European Cups, they’ve been won at clubs United fans have no care for. Mourinho’s greatest success at Old Trafford is his self-proclaimed treble in his first season. A Community Shield, League Cup and Emmerdale Cup might keep you safe at Rotherham United, but this is Manchester United, and Jose has more loyalty points on his Tesco clubcard than he does with United fans.
That, for me, is why Mourinho isn’t the new Wenger. He doesn’t have the history with United fans that Wenger did with Arsenal. Wenger made Arsenal relevant, successful, and classy. Mourinho has made United dull, lifeless and static. Yes, a packet of Jelly Babies had more of a spine than Wenger’s Arsenal side but they still played attractive football on their day.
Mourinho’s United side wouldn’t attack you if you handed them a water pistol, stuck a target on your head, and proceeded to call them every swear word under the sun. They’d more likely pop out to the shops, leave the door wide open, and say “Take what you want; we’ll be gone for six years”.
United may well be a laughing stock at the moment, tenth in the league, boring our fans to sleep on the pitch, with Mourinho dressing like a cross between Mr Bean and the Milk Tray man. But it won’t last as long as Arsenal’s nightmare under Wenger because Mourinho doesn’t have the United heritage or the attacking football to fall back on.
Mr Wikipedia could last another month, to Christmas, or maybe even May? But as soon as Champions League qualification is impossible he’ll be out of a job like Moyes and Van Gaal before him. Rightly or wrongly Arsenal weren’t ruthless with Wenger. United will be with Mourinho.