Wenger 'not tempted' by United call in 2001

LONDON • Arsene Wenger said his dedication to Arsenal's values persuaded him to reject an offer from Manchester United in 2001 and continue his career at the north London football club.

A move to United, who were Arsenal's primary rivals for the Premier League title during the early part of this century, would have caused shockwaves.

That was what Martin Edwards, the United chairman at the time, sought to achieve after Alex Ferguson - in a decision he later reversed - announced that he would retire at the end of the 2001-02 season. However, Wenger opted to turn down a proposal that he admitted was attractive.

"You should ask him," Wenger said of Edwards after the latter claimed in his new autobiography that the pair met in London to discuss a move.

"I am very confidential. One day maybe I will get all the contacts I had during my stay at Arsenal and it would make a few chapters."

Pressed on why he would turn down United, who were the reigning champions when Edwards made his approach, Wenger explained he saw no reason to leave a club whose philosophy matched his own.

"Because I love the values of this club and, for me, a club is about values first," he said.

"Yes, of course, Manchester United is attractive but am I happy here? The answer was yes."

Wenger clarified that he was never tempted by a move to Old Trafford. "No, because I was always happy here," he said. "More than people were happy with me, I was always happy here."

The last sentence resonates particularly in a period when the fault lines around Arsenal are more pronounced than at any stage under Wenger.

Saturday's 3-0 win over Bournemouth went a small way towards salving the wounds inflicted by their crushing 4-0 defeat by Liverpool on Aug 27 but, while the Emirates Stadium sounded content enough, there was little outward support for the manager.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger 'not tempted' by United call in 2001'. Print Edition | Subscribe