Wenger needs to work on his balancing act, says Ferguson

United manager interrupts preparations to face Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale and takes a swipe at the transfer policies of another old foe, writes Sam Wallace
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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts are occupied with Liverpool and Internazionale at the moment but the Manchester United manager did not pass up a chance to have a dig at Arsène Wenger yesterday when he said the Arsenal manager’s transfer policy “lacks balance”.

Ferguson, whose club are 17 points ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League, echoed the view of many when he said that he could not understand why Wenger had not bought a defensive midfielder at the very least during the last year. Ferguson was talking to the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche whose readers had recently voted him the best manager in the world.

Ferguson said of Wenger: “He believes profoundly in his youngsters. He doesn’t like to blend them too much with older players. What astonishes me is that he always buys attacking players, like [Andrei] Arshavin. He is a good player but he already has [Samir] Nasri, [Emmanuel] Adebayor, [Robin] Van Persie, [Nicklas] Bendtner, Eduardo [da Silva], [Theo] Walcott. I don’t think he likes buying defenders. That lacks balance.”

Ferguson was also adamant that Real Madrid will not win the Champions League this season, including a criticism of Arjen Robben, the player who turned him down to join Chelsea in 2004. “No chance. They [Real] lack pace. They have great players, [Gabriel] Heinze, [Fabio] Cannavaro, [Fernando] Gago but they are not fast. There is Robben. He is the only one who can give them some tempo but he is not a very courageous player.”

Instead Ferguson said that he believed the three English clubs as well as Internazionale and Barcelona were the key rivals to United in defending their European title. He added that he and Jose Mourinho were still friends and said he anticipated another confident press conference performance from the Internazionale coach today. “My old friend [Mourinho],” Ferguson said, “I can see him now in his press conference saying ‘I have a good record against Manchester’. Some people don’t like him because he is impertinent, too sure of himself. Me, I like him a lot. He does his job.”

In France, Ferguson’s admiration for the Lyons striker Karim Benzema is a source of some controversy, the Lyons president Jean-Michel Aulas having accused him of tapping-up the player after the Champions League tie between the two sides last year. However, Ferguson implied in his interview yesterday that it was Aulas who was trying to create an auction between England’s top clubs.

“You have to keep an eye on all the top players, and he is going to be one of them. But the president of Lyons is a clever man. He sold [Michael] Essien for €38m, [Mahamadou] Diarra for €26m, [Florent] Malouda for €19m, [Eric] Abidal for €16m. When we played Lyons last season, at the end of the match, he told me: ‘Chelsea have bid €50m for Benzema.’ I said ‘At that price, they can have him’.

“He is an excellent footballer. He reminds me of [Zinedine] Zidane in the way that he positions his body – the ball seems to be glued between his feet. Defenders can’t get near him. But whatever you do, don’t say that I want to buy him.”