Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson spoke of his admiration for Arsenal on Friday as he congratulated old foe Arsene Wenger for reaching his 1,000th game in charge.
The pair, now friends, had an intense rivalry as managers and did not speak to each other for five years after a match at Old Trafford in October 2004 ended a record 49 match unbeaten run by Arsenal.
"I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark," the Scot said in a statement issued on Friday by the League Managers Association ahead of Arsenal's Premier League match at leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
"Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.
"Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other's efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene's sides - Arsenal play the right way," added Ferguson.
Ferguson, who retired last year after 26 years at United, said playing against Arsenal always presented special challenges "that I burned many hours over the years thinking about.
"Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years," added the Scot.
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
1/11 Richard Wright
After impressing at Ipswich, Wright was signed in 2001 as the heir to David Seaman's No 1 shirt, but his time at Highbury was remembered for error after error, and he was eventually usurped by young Stuart Taylor
2/11 Oleg Luzhny
Known as "The Horse" for his galloping runs, but played like he was wearing blinkers. Joined from Dynamo Kyiv in 1999
3/11 Igors Stepanovs
Tried to marshal the Gunners against Manchester United at Old Trafford in disastrous consequences, the team conceding five before half-time and memorably losing 6-1. Latvian signed from Skonto Riga in 2000
4/11 Sebastien Squillaci
French international joined for £4m from Sevilla in 2010. Made 39 largely woeful appearances for the club, and left on a free last year
5/11 Andre Santos
The least said about Santos the better. Wenger said the "quality" left-back had "Champions League experience" when he was signed from Fenerbahce for £6.2m in 2011 but he had yet to play even in the full competition. Was he even talking about the same player?
6/11 Junichi Inamoto
The Japanese midfielder joined from Gamba Osaka in 2001, in a move that was portrayed as a cynical marketing ploy for the Gunners to tap into the Far East market. The doubters had a point, he failed to make a Premier League appearance for the club before leaving to join Fulham a year later
7/11 Amaury Bischoff
Wenger admitted he had taken "a gamble" on signing the injury-hit Portuguese midfielder in 2008. The gamble didn't pay off - he only played one Premier League match for the Gunners before leaving the following season
He may now be setting the world alight for Roma in Italy, but the Gervinho at Arsenal was a different beast - one that could not cross or shoot, and confused himself when he was running with the ball
9/11 Park Ju-Young
Park who? I hear you cry. Despite scoring on his debut, the South Korean striker only ever made seven appearances in three years at the club. He is now paying his trade on loan at Watford
10/11 Marouane Chamakh
The Moroccan target man joined from Bordeaux with fine Champions League pedigree. Unfortunately he did not ever get close to replicating this for the Gunners
11/11 Francis Jeffers
The "Fox in the Box" was not a wily signing for £8m. He scored eight goals during his time at Arsenal, meaning every goal he scored set the club back a cool £1m
"Overall this achievement once again shows what stability can bring to a football club and without doubt he has created a permanent legacy during his 1,000 matches with the club."
Wenger, who was presented with a golden cannon by the Gunners on Friday, joins Ferguson as one of just four managers to reach 1,000 games with the same club in English football.
The Frenchman is the North London club's most successful manager as well as the longest serving current boss in England.
Ferguson's comments will also be welcomed by his successor and fellow-Scot David Moyes, who has come under fire for United's poor showing in his first season in charge at Old Trafford.
Champions United are currently languishing seventh in the league, 18 points behind Chelsea. Arsenal are third, four points off the lead.
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