Arsenal shareholder dismisses Man Utd 'overachievers'
The Russian contingent of Arsenal's major shareholders gave their full backing Thursday to manager Arsene Wenger, taking a swipe at rivals the current fortunes of rivals Manchester United.
The two English soccer clubs have faced very different fortunes in recent years after being fierce rivals in the 1990s. The Manchester club have enjoyed constant success, but with a management change in the summer, the club has languished outside of the top four places in the U.K.'s Premier League.
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Meanwhile, London-based Arsenal has risen to the top of the division after spending years in the shadows. Iranian-born Farhad Moshiri, chairman of USM Holdings - who own around a 30 percent stake in the club - gave his full backing to the team's "romantic style" of football.
"(Manager) Arsene Wenger is crucial to us," he told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"He has run the club on a shoestring budget and staying in the Champions league, playing attractive football. He is unique."
Moshiri - who is the business partner of Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov - used a financial term to show his gratitude to Wenger, dubbing him a "free source of rights issue for 16 years."
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He added that Manchester United have only enjoyed recent success due to the determination and skill of now-departed manager Alex Ferguson. He made a "bunch of ordinary players overachieve", he said, adding that the players now no longer outperform due to Ferguson's departure.
"Arsenal players are much better. They are a very talented bunch," he said. "We are all hoping that he signs the contract."
Moshiri added that USM Holdings would only look to raise their stake in the soccer club if majority shareholder Stan Kroenke is willing to sell. "I think he's a longer-term investor...we're quite happy with 30 percent," he said.
By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81