Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have rejected the idea that the Premier League is in decline after just Manchester United and Arsenal reached the last 16 of the Champions League ahead of the draw on Thursday.
While current holders Chelsea and domestic champions Manchester City both crashed out in the group stages, United ensured there would be no repeat of last year’s early exit after topping their group with relative ease and the Gunners secured second spot in a slightly trickier group.
Scottish giants Celtic also booked their place in the first knockout round, but when the standard of the Premier League was put to the two longest-serving managers in England’s top flight, they vehemently denied claims that the country’s top teams were not the force of old.
Sir Alex told reporters: “Europe has certainly been disappointing for Premier League teams – Chelsea apart – in the last couple of years, whereas for quite a few years prior to that we had three teams in the semi-finals and an all-English final between ourselves and Chelsea .
“Sometimes, however, you get blips but I don’t see this happening consistently as I feel English teams will always be challenging in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“The league is still the most exciting in Europe, I don’t think there is any question about that. The great thing about our league is that anyone can beat anyone and in general you see 100 per cent commitment and the supporters recognise that.”
Wenger, meanwhile, believes the ever-improving competition around the continent has been the reason several English clubs have slipped up, but feels the ability to attract star names to this country is telling.
He said: “Maybe we have less margin for error than we had before when it was just a question of when we would qualify. Now German football has come up, Spanish football is there every year and some French clubs have come back, like Paris Saint-Germain.
“I don’t believe we are getting worse. I’d still say England is the strongest league, because in England if they want a player they still get him. As long as that happens you will be the most powerful league in Europe. Are we the best in Europe? That’s another question.
“I would say that the best leagues in Europe are in Spain and England.”