If you really had to, who would you go out with - Arsene or Fergie? Asks Hunter Davies
Fergie and Wenger go head to head this weekend. No, not kissy, kissy. Headbanging, head-butting. Fergie must have been spitting during the week, watching Arsenal and Chelsea still in Europe, while he's been sitting around, throwing things at the cat, eating the furniture. But if he beats Arsenal on Sunday, he'll be all smiles, good fun to be with.
So, given the choice, if you really had to, who would you go out with?
Wenger probably isn't much fun on a first date, like going out with the school swot: no small talk, no sweet nothings. You could engage him in some intellectual chat, such as how remarkable it is that three players in his first team have more vowels in their names than consonants - Vieira, Toure and Edu. I bet he'd be impressed. Then you might try to solve one of the great Arsenal mysteries: are those books real, the red ones he sits in front of on Arsenal's pre-match video? Or are they just a phoney prop?
With Fergie, if he's in a good mood and you get on to a second bottle of Fleurie, ask about Becks: did he really hate him so much, or just his wife? What were the Becksy incidents that really pissed him off? Could be gold dust there.
Fergie and Wenger are such different human beings, in looks and personality, yet engaged in the same game. Wenger has edged ahead, without actually winning anything in Europe, but he's doing much better. Under Fergie a good player, such as Veron, got worse, while Wenger turned a good player, such as Henry, into a brilliant one.
Tell Wenger you've noticed how poorly good players have done after they've left his hands, as with Petit, Overmars and Anelka. That's a really subtle sign of good management. Unlike Becks, who blossomed once out of Fergie's clutches.
If a one-night stand with Wenger led to going steady, you would have to put up with TV commentators slobbering all over him, like Peter Drury. "Fantastic, impeccable, immaculate, irresistible, luxuriant, clinical, brilliant, gorgeously gliding." Just some of the Drury drooling over Arsenal's first half against Bolton the other Saturday - a game I was at - which Bolton could easily have drawn. Could you stomach all that for the next ten years?
With Fergie, it's now open season for giving him a good kicking, well deserved, naturally. You could have a useful role in mopping his brow, holding his hand, filling his glass.
Fergie has had ten years of people fawning all over him, so it would be an interesting experience, nobody begging his favours any more, or desperate to keep in with him. Clearly, he expected to retire in his own good time, at the top, ego intact. But events, dear boy, have conspired. He's made some lousy decisions, had some bad luck, such as Ferdinand, and the unexpected has happened in the shape of a moneybags at Chelsea.
When Liverpool had their ten years at the top, some thought it would never end, that this was the world order. Back then, "this is Anfield" would always strike terror into opponents. But it didn't last. Life moved on, pendulums swung.
Man Utd, during their ten years of domination, have had the bonus of enormous wealth, becoming the richest club in the world, even if most of this is from merchandising. It looked as though no other English club could ever compete. But Arsenal have. Arsenal will in turn fade. In ten years, they'll be mediocre, like Liverpool is now, like Man Utd will be next season.
Living with Wenger for the next ten years, would you get any closer to him? Fergie has done endless first-person books, revealed his brutish nature in countless rows. You'd know where you were with him - ready to duck. Wenger has given nothing away. No autobiogs, no public spats, no clues. He's so controlled, so emotionless. Perhaps there's a hidden vice we don't know about, some deep stress behind that cold stare?
Whomever you choose, it's clear how the affair will end. Fergie will get redder and redder - and then explode. Wenger will get more lined in the face, until he ends up looking like W H Auden. Could you put up with that, next to you in bed? It's a hard one. I leave you to decide, pet . . .