Arsenal and Manchester United shared a parallel course during the golden era of the Premier League. Duking it out for titles and supremacy, for the best part of a decade – it was a titanic tussle between the two best equipped sides.
And the two longest-serving managers were attempting to outwit the other at every turn.
But since their departure from their positions, these two famous clubs have unravelled, fighting to keep their heads above the rising tide of wealth flooding in from other clubs – while attempting to begin another era of legacy in the shadow of the best they’ve had.
Not an easy task – and both clubs have faltered in their attempts to forge a new successful regime.
And this is where the parallel ends.
When Fergie departed, David Moyes came personally recommended by the outgoing manager. After cutting his teeth at Everton and helping the Toffees up the table, pushing for Europe – Moyes looked a good choice.
The trouble is, Moyes made errors.
The biggest of them all was making significant changes too early. No-one likes change. After more than two decades at United, the very fabric of the staff and process were interwoven with Fergie DNA. And Moyes chose to strip back to the floorboards and bring in an entirely new team, instead of intermittent changes.
And his failed transfer attempts didn’t help either.
When Arsene Wenger left Arsenal, Unai Emery was the man chosen from an apparently glittering candidate list. Emery had a decent pedigree like Moyes – and his success with Sevilla and experience handling the pressure cooker atmosphere at PSG could only serve him well.
The trouble is, Emery was never given a chance to really put his mark on things.
True, he made plenty of signings. But Arsenal were still in transition. There were a number of players who were not conducive to a different way of playing, a contrasting approach. But they remained. Emery couldn’t turn the tide in terms of results and he soon left.
With a change in boardroom assistance, Arsenal looked to the candidate list again. They needed someone who could bring the winds of change to bring the correct mentality back to the club, without making sweeping changes all at once. It would be a longer process – which would mean a manager coming in who wanted a project. One that would see improvements over seasons, rather than in a year.
Mikel Arteta may not have delivered the promised land yet – but in bringing back the positivity in the stands and entire fanbase, the Spaniard has unified what has been split for so long.
And it’s because we can see the process bearing fruit. The recruitment of young, hungry professionals. The pushing through of homegrown talent. The ‘zero room’ approach for egos. It is one team, one direction.
And the expert recruitment of his staff (Nicolas Jover has made us dangerous from set-plays whilst clamming us up in defence) has seen this promising bunch of players begin to push upwards. It’s still early days and title talk is not exactly fully baked yet – but we’re on the right path.
We got the right man.
And yet, United have tried Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick since Moyes was dumped. And now, with Erik Ten Hag, they have finally looked to bring in a man that has his own vision and the assertiveness to carry this out. A hungry brand of football that helped Ajax bring the good times back.
True, the squad needs a robust cleaning out – much like Arteta had to.
And Ten Hag still doesn’t have the team he wants around him.
It shows that Arsenal are about two or three seasons ahead of United in this transformation process. It takes a lot of money (something United may not have given the Glazers debt), the correct choice in the dugout and most importantly – trust from Board to stands.
Arsenal and Arteta are on the up after so long in the doldrums.
And the parallel course that United and the Gunners once shared is severed for now.