Gary Neville says Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was Manchester United’s “greatest competitor”.
Arsenal announced on Friday that Wenger would resign at the end of the season after 22 years in charge in north London.
The Frenchman won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups during one of the most successful periods of the club’s history.
Neville, whose United side engaged in numerous memorable battles with Wenger’s Arsenal, has paid tribute to the manager.
“My initial reaction to the news of Arsene Wenger leaving is one of warmth towards him,” he told Sky Sports. “When someone makes a decision like that you think back to the great battles, teams and players he managed over a long period of time.
“The best English teams I played against were built and managed by Arsene. The 1998 team was the best one, he got under our skins for a number of years, he was our greatest competitor in terms of going for Premier League titles.
“In terms of the football they played, the biggest compliment I can give him is that he played a level and brand of football that made us change the way we played, which you don’t say about too many teams.
“You might change for a Barcelona, you might change for a Real Madrid, but you don’t change for too many teams in English football.
“We’d have to go more defensive, and change our style, and across a 20-year period they were just wonderful football teams that played in a great style.
“It’ll be a huge challenge for whoever takes over. The reality of it is, Arsene Wenger has created a culture at the football club that will be set – there will now need to be an introduction of a new manager who will need to put his own stamp on it, manipulate the squad into something he likes, change the environment and make sure it becomes his team.
“There will be some teething problems, but I don’t think this is the time to be looking forward to a new manager and next season.
“I think Arsenal have done it now to give themselves some time to look forward, to give themselves some time to put a plan in place, but today feels like a day when we should be talking about Arsene Wenger and the success and respect he deserves for his great tenure at Arsenal, rather than who the next manager is going to be.”