The Weekend Dossier: Lee Dixon

Fergie knows you must mix innocence with arrogance – so why doesn't Wenger?

It is nothing new, but somehow the ability of Sir Alex Ferguson to redesign his team still comes as a surprise. You look at the Manchester United side that brushed aside Tottenham on Monday and it's as if it had evolved overnight.

That's how it seems from the outside. First came the Da Silva twins, then he signed Chris Smalling, then Phil Jones arrived. In the meantime back come Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley from loan spells – both having picked up a season's worth of experience in the Premier League – they go too and suddenly there's an exciting new team. Of course there is nothing sudden about it and for the coaching set-up at Old Trafford it's the result of careful, long-term planning.

It is what Ferguson has always done so well, the manner in which he integrates young players seamlessly. Every couple of years or so United seem to blossom into a new team. Paul Scholes and Gary Neville have gone, and Ryan Giggs looks like he will be sitting on the bench for much of this campaign, but United already look like the team to beat.

There are similarities between Ferguson and Arsène Wenger in how both like to refresh their sides with young players, and are happy to give those youngsters a go. The difference, and it is a big one, is that Ferguson always keeps that core of experience and that provides the youngsters with a constant reference point. Arsenal have tried to be too youth orientated so the transition is not as smooth – as results have shown.

There is an expectation when you play for Arsenal – as there is at United, Chelsea and other clubs of that status – and the fact that there hasn't been a trophy for six years shows that perhaps the players have not been able to handle it, to knuckle down and get that result when under real pressure. You need to have a certain character of player in the team to do that and Arsenal have lacked that sort of mental strength.

The win in midweek against Udinese was encouraging, but the pressure is still there. In the past you would have been confident – and I say this as a former Arsenal man rather than a detached pundit – that they would play "for the Cannon". We always used to say that we were The Arsenal – that capital T meant something. It looks like it did in Italy and they will need more of the same at Old Trafford tomorrow afternoon. But, and there always seems to be a but with Arsenal at the moment, I am not convinced they have enough of that spirit. Is there enough character in the team? That is an area where somebody like Gary Cahill may have a role to play.

You can't overestimate the power of the dressing room, before, during and after the game. Look around the Manchester United dressing room and there are people like Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand. There are dressing rooms you come out of half a goal up already. Is that bordering on arrogance? No, it is an arrogance. I have been there and know how it feels – I'm not in the Arsenal dressing room now but I don't see it clearly on the pitch with this side. You sit in the dressing room, look round and think I can count on him, him, him and on the list goes. It is what Ferguson has got so right over the years – having that as a constant while also managing to filter in ready-made replacements. He can freshen up his sides without losing any of that arrogance and authority that belongs to United teams whenever they run out on to the pitch.

There is something else that Ferguson, and United, are good at; keeping a link with the club's past, a sense of continuity. Bobby Charlton is there, Bryan Robson is there as an ambassador, while Paul Scholes is also still around. There is less of that at Arsenal – and this is certainly not me pitching for a job! – with only Steve Bould looking after the reserve team. That continuity within a club matters – it applies to any business really, you don't want to see all that talent and experience walk out the door. Manchester City didn't hesitate to give Patrick Vieira a role off the field when he retired.

You look at United's squad now – and David Gill has said there will be no more additions in this transfer window – and over the season they definitely still appear the team the others will have to catch. There you are admiring Welbeck against Spurs and on comes Javier Hernandez, fresh and flying after a nice long rest, as Dimitar Berbatov sits and watches from the sidelines without having to take his tracksuit off.

Arsenal's bench couldn't compete with Liverpool's last weekend let alone United. I am one of Wenger's biggest fans and the Champions League win does give him a bit of leeway that he deserves, but Arsène must strengthen the squad. His side showed their spirit on Wednesday and he has some extraordinarily talented players, but this is a massive few days for him and his club.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing