Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends
- “Old Friends”, Simon and Garfunkel
Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr. Arsene Wenger. The old warhorses, one time enemies, have now reconciled. They’re old men, and both possess the wisdom that old age provides. But only Ferguson possesses twelve league titles. He chooses not to flaunt it though, Wenger has a rather frail disposition. The bottle throwing incident has not helped… nor has the RVP debacle.
In light of their recently evident admiration for each other, and a growing mutual respect, SAF has invited AW over to his house for a drink, and to talk about… things.
Mr. Wenger, has been famously known to say that in his leisure time, he watches football. Sir Ferguson, on the other hand, is a known admirer of horses. In fact, his signing of Robin Van Persie silenced all sceptics.
Understandably, this meeting of friends is not going all that well. After all, one can only lead a horse to a football pitch, but what’s the point anyway?
Wenger is about to suggest they play a word game, in the hope that it will make the silence slightly less uncomfortable, and that Ferguson will eventually suggest they eat dinner together.
I now present to you the final few minutes of their meeting, which, like all United and Arsenal matches, are the most interesting minutes anyway.
AW: Let’s play a punny game Alex.
SAF: Punny? Isn’t that a place in India? That Blackburn fellow is from those parts isn’t he?
AW: Err, no, that’s Pune. I’ve heard they have some excellent youth players there. I only wish they were not so… messy.
SAF: Messi? There will not be another Messi. That Portuguese boy thinks he’s better, but I would never have sold Messi for 80 pounds.
AW: You mean 80 million pounds.
SAF: Yes, that’s what I said.
AW: Yes, anyway. I’ll start. My center back had a package delivered to the club. Ver mailin’ it to him tomorrow. Eh? Eh? Get it?
SAF: Well, yes, I think I do. But why don’t you just tell him to pick it up after training? It seems like the logical thing to do. Arsene, this has always been your problem. This, and the money thing. If only you had a wee bit of practical knowledge…
AW: Practical knowledge? You’re asking Me about practical knowledge? I fill my team with the best French players because they like me, because I’m French! My club, unlike yours, doesn’t have any debt to pay. I also..
SAF: Oh shut up. I was talking about practical footballing knowledge. Now that’s a whole different ball game.
AW: Ball game… good one!
AW: Never mind. So anyway, the punny game. Thomas didn’t Really get a package. It was a joke. See? ‘Ver mailin’ it. Alright here’s another one. I hope Bacary will Sagna contract soon. Get it?
SAF: You also hoped Van Persie would sign a contract. But he didn’t. Oh no he di-iint, oh no he di-iint.
AW: Uhh, it’s oh yes he did.
SAF: What? Bollocks. He certainly did not.
AW: I know, Alex. It’s the catchphrase. Oh no he di-iint, oh yes he did.
SAF: That, doesn’t make sense. That’s neither here nor there. What’s the matter with you lot? Anyway, this punny game, I think I get it now. Go on then, you try again.
AW: Well I… alright… Let me see. Okay here’s one. Little Alex just bought a manor for himself. He’s in the inner Chamber Lain’ down for a while.
AW: Yes, that’s funny because his name is Oxlade Chambe…
SAF: Yes yes, that scrawny little chap that runs on the side.
AW: You mean Walcott. I was not talking about Walcott. I was talking about the other boy. The one who might actually amount to something.
SAF: Gee, that’s a bit… harsh, don’t you think? But speaking of boys that might amount to something, I’ve got one!
AW: I’m all ears.
SAF: You sure are Arsene. Ok, so.. Chicharito ate a burrito!
SAF: And? What do you mean And? That’s it. Don’t you get it?
AW: Uhh, I hate to break it to you Alex, but it’s You that doesn’t get it.
SAF: Really? I don’t get it? I have twelve league titles Arsene. I won two Champions League titles. I’ve come very close to two more. I haven’t had a title drought for the past seven years. My son does, but not me. You sit there, in your prissy little suit, ready to pull your hair out, with your team getting owned season after season, and you say that I don’t get it? I’ve assembled a squad that beat yours 8-2 Arsene. You take your score, square it, and then multiply it with your score again. That gives you 8. Which is what we scored. Did you see what I did there Arsene?
AW: I’m not sure I did, to be honest. I…
SAF: I did math, Arsene. Math. Math, and football management, they go hand in hand old man. And you don’t understand the half of it. How many times have I told you, as far as the financial records are concerned, red is the new green. Why don’t you get it?
AW: Because that isn’t the way it works, you fool. And why is football management about money now? That will, that passion, to teach young boys, nurture their talents, make players out of nobodies and champions out of players. We were always about that Alex. What changed man? What changed?
SAF: The times, Arsene. The times changed, and I changed, but you never did. You think football is about pretty passing? You old fool, you think you’re Barcelona because you can pass. You’re no Barcelona. To be a Barcelona you need crazy media rights, a league that is virtually a duopoly and powerful people upstairs. And to have them, you need titles, and for that, you need…
AW: Who you can buy by paying a lot of money for.
SAF: Yes, indeed.
AW: And you give them good salaries so they will be tempted to join your club.
SAF: Yes, yes yes. Finally you seem to be getting it you stubborn mule you. Well, better late than nev…
AW: Like, Ashley Young?
SAF: Hey man.
AW: *snigger* What? Oh come on, don’t be like that Fergs. Alright fine, like Jordan Henderson.
AW: Aaand… Charlie Adam.
AW: And Stewart Downing. And Roque Santa Cruz too.
SAF: Hahahahaha, you sure know how to cheer an old man up Arsene.
AW: I also know how to please young boys.
SAF: You. You what? YOU WHAT?
AW: I meant by giving them first team opportunities! Alex Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Sexy Fabregas… Come on Alex, not you too?
SAF: Okay, I apologise. Alright, let’s try a new game, shall we? This is getting a little too serious.
AW: I agree monsieur. How about a board game?
SAF: Oh, brilliant idea Arse. Ok, so I’ll be the board, and I’ve just given you 80 million pounds as your transfer budget. What do you do?
AW: Ok, I meant a regular board… never mind. Okay. Seriously? 80 million pounds? Isn’t that a little.. unrealistic?
SAF: Yes, you do have a point. We’ll keep it real. Alright, tell you what, you’re Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United. The year is 2011. The board has just given you 135 million pounds. What do you do?
AW: Goodbye, Alex.
Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends.