by Lewis Ambrose

It may still be a few years away yet, but it is inevitable that Arsène Wenger will leave Arsenal in the not-so distant future, but how do the Gunners ensure they don’t make the same mistakes as Manchester United when they had to replace Sir Alex Ferguson?

The two managers have a lot in common, having been at their respective clubs for an incredibly long time and more or less transforming them in the process.

Ferguson made United the biggest club in England, and Wenger has won titles before going on to give Arsenal the financial muscle needed to keep a sustained challenge at the very top of the game nowadays.

But Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure and the subsequent decline on the pitch at Old Trafford is certainly a warning, and one that Arsenal can learn from.


Sir Alex Ferguson left his successor with a whole new team to build.

Stalwart defenders that Ferguson had built around were ageing, and almost an entire new back four had to be constructed. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones weren’t ready to step into the shoes of injury-ridden pair Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić, who were 34 and 31 respectively by May 2013. Patrice Evra was 33, and all three players – key figures under Ferguson – departed in the summer of 2014.

In midfield Manchester United and Ferguson had never replaced Paul Scholes and Roy Keane. Scholes had to come out of retirement at the age of 37 during Ferguson’s penultimate year such was the poor quality in midfield. Darren Fletcher was yet to return, Michael Carrick was in his thirties and struggling with injuries, and the likes of Anderson and Tom Cleverley were left to David Moyes.

A huge reason the Scot struggled to get going in Manchester was because the team left to him – despite being champions – was old and falling apart.

Maybe that’s even why Ferguson left when he did.

Arsène Wenger has the chance to put together a team of brilliant talent so that his replacement has the easiest task possible, and I think he will – already dodging one mistake which led to Moyes’ ill-fated reign at Old Trafford.

Wenger has already said he won’t make same error.

“I want to leave the club in a strong and healthy position and that means with good players, with good youth behind and a strong financial position to go further up and develop more,” said Wenger in March 2015.

“I will do that, you can believe me.

“The guy that comes in after me will be in a very good position to deliver something exceptional.”

Whoever comes in may well want to make changes but Wenger will at least give him a very strong base to work with.


Something really vital is not to change too much at once.

David Moyes decided to remove all of Ferguson’s backroom staff. As if it wasn’t unstable enough with the manager changing, Moyes was too worried that United wouldn’t be seen as his own and made too many changes too quickly.

Wenger’s successor may well bring in his own staff but it would do some good to keep some people around who already know the club and the players.

Even worse was that when Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United the club was already losing chief executive David Gill.

Gill had worked as chief executive for 10 years and, working together with Ferguson, had identified, signed, and kept players throughout his time in such a key role.

David Moyes could have done with Gill above him to guide him through his first summer as manager of such a huge club. Instead United had already announced that Ed Woodward, someone with no experience of such a role, would be the new chief executive. Woodward was an accountant by trade, a man who was in charge of commercial and media operations at Old Trafford.

He had no experience of working alongside a manager to identify targets, and no experience of negotiating with clubs, agents, and players.

Whoever replaces Arsène Wenger at Arsenal must come into a more stable system above them, a system that already works and knows what it’s doing.


As a result the transfer window was a disaster. Manchester United signed Marouane Fellaini on deadline day but the summer of 2013 saw them miss out on Cesc Fàbregas, Toni Kroos, and Ander Herrera despite being pretty public about their interest in those players.

They seemed bullish, possibly encouraged by bluffing agents, but behind the scenes nothing was actually getting done.

Arsène Wenger’s successor must be backed in the transfer window. He must be allowed to make his stamp on the club, and signing the right targets with minimal fuss will make the transition as easy as possible.


A big club like Manchester United and Arsenal comes with huge – possibly unfair – expectations, and with that comes huge pressure.

While not essential Arsenal may well want to consider a man used to the pressures of a massive club to replace Arsène Wenger.

It really isn’t essential, but it could definitely help.

Whoever comes in must have the confidence and strength of character to instil their own ideas, not bend to public will, and they must have the full backing of the club. There’s nothing to say this wouldn’t happen with an up and coming manager but it certainly didn’t happen to David Moyes, who was under pressure that he struggled to cope with from the word go.


Before Arsène Wenger leaves, Arsenal must be ready to have the club in the best possible shape on and off the pitch. The once distant future could come as early as one of the next two summers.

Wenger already could be building a squad ready for his successor to compete.

From there it is down to the club to choose the right man and, vitally, give him the right circumstances in which he could thrive.