Monday, August 15, 2016

Manchester United All-time team

Triple Crown in 1999
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

This is my selection of a 25 member all-time team for the club.  The number 25 was chosen because it is the official squad size for the Champions' League.

Even before the arrival Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986, Manchester United was the most popular club in England, despite not being the most successful side.  The Busby Babe created a lot of excitement for English football and then, the Munich air disaster turned the Red Devils into a team that everyone with a heart to follow.  By the late 1960's, the Trinity of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best represented three parts of the United Kingdom.  They appealed to the fans from Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.  In 1968, Manchester United became the first English side to win the European Cup.  

After the formation of the Premiership, they became the most successful club in English domestic football overtaking Liverpool for winning the most number of league titles.

2008 Champions' League
The Team
GK: Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)
He was regarded as one of the greatest keeper of all-time. He was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1992 and 1993. He is best remembered for his most successful years at Manchester United, whom he captained to the 1999 UEFA Champions League to complete the Treble, and for winning UEFA Euro 1992 with Denmark. 

GK: Edwin Van Der Sar (Holland)
The most capped player in Holland's history.  He was best remembered for being the Ajax keeper in 1995 that won the Champions' League and then, later for Manchester United for 6 seasons.  He won the Champions' League in 2007-2008. In between, he also played with Fulham and Juventus.

GK: Alex Stepney (England)
Stepney played with Millwall before joining Chelsea.  he only played one game and was sold to Manchester United to replace Harry Greg who was injured during the Munich Disaster.  Stepney helped the Red Devils to win the 1968 European Cup.

RB/LB: John Carey (Ireland/N.Ireland) 
In 1949, he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year and in the same year captained the FAI XI that defeated England, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.

RB: Gary Neville (England)
Along with his brother Philip, David Beckham, Paul Scoles, Ryan Giggs, and Nicky Butt, Gary Neville captained the Manchester United academy team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1991.  They all became fixtures for the senior team throughout the 1990's.  Gary Neville remained the team until 2011 and was the second, longest serving player.  For England, he was the most capped rightback in history.

CB: Bill Foulkes (England)
Folks spent his entire career with Manchester United.  Uninjured during the Munich Air Disaster, he became the captain of the team. He was a part of the 1968 European Cup winning team.

CB: Rio Ferdinand (England)
Became the youngest defender to play for the Three Lions at the time in 1997.   He played 81 times for England  between 1997 and 2011, and was a member of three World Cup squads.  At one point, he was the most expensive British footballer and also broke the world's record transfer fees for a defender twice. He won the Champions' League with Manchester United in 2008.

Ferdinand and Vidic
CB: Nemanja Vidic (Serbia)
He spent 9 seasons as the starting center-back at Manchester United from 2006 and 2014, where he won every major trophy and established himself as one of the best center-backs of his generation.  He also played for Red Star Belgrade and Spartak Moscow.  He went to the WC Finals in 2006 and 2010.

CB: Martin Buchan (Scotland)
Buchan joined Manchester United from Aberdeen in 1972.  He was the captain of the team after Charlton retired.  He represented Scotland at the 1974 and 1978 WC Finals.

LB:  Roger Byrne (England)
Byrne was the captain of the Busby Babes.  With Manchester United, he won the league title in 1952, 1956 and 1957. He earned 33 caps with England while playing in every England's fixtures in that period, a record for England.  Unfortunately, he died at the age of 28 in the Munich Air Disaster.

LB/RB: Denis Irwin (Ireland) 
Alex Ferguson considered him his greatest ever signing.  He played over 200 games for Manchester United, winning the Champions' League in 1999 and 7 Premiership titles. Irwin was capped by the Republic of Ireland national side 56 times, scoring four goals and featuring in the side that reached the second round (last 16) at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

CM: Duncan Edwards (England)
Edwards  was one of the Busby Babes of Manchester United.  He made his professional debut at the age of 16. He died in 1958 during the Munich Air Disaster.  Many people considered him to be  England's greatest player.  He was capped 18 times between 1955 and 1957, scoring 5 goals.

Edwards who died young
CM/DM: Roy Keane (Ireland)
Captain of Manchester United from 1997 to 2005, where he won one Champions' League, 7 Preimer League titles and 4 FA Cups.  He was the PWA Player of the Year in 2000.  He palyed for Ireland at USA 1994, but was sent home 4 years later before the start of the WC in 2002.

CM: Bryan Robson (England)
He was at one point the most expensive British player.  He is considered to be one of England's best ever box-to-box midfielders.  He earned 90 caps for England. He went to three World Cup Finals, but he only played a major role in 1982.  He was injured in both 1986 and 1990.  He spent 13 years with Manchester United.

Bryan Robson

RW: David Beckham (England)
Beckham is the greatest ever icon to play the game. He started his career with Manchester United where he was a part of the famous team that won the 1992 FA Youth Cup. For the senior side, he won 6 Premiership titles and the 1999 Champions' League.  In 2003, he joined Real Madrid for the well-publicized "Galacticos" signing.  In 2007, he moved to LA Galaxy, where he kickstarted a soccer fever in the United States.  For England, he earned 115 caps and was a key part of the national team throughout his career.

David Beckham

RW:  Billy Meredith (Wales)
He was a legendary player for both Manchester City and Manchester United. He was probably the greatest right winger in Manchester United's history.  He gained 48 caps for Wales, for whom he scored 11 goals and won two British Home Championship titles. 

LW: Ryan Giggs (Wales)
Sir Alex's longest serving player at Manchester United.  
He also holds the club record for competitive appearances. During his time at United, he won 13 Premier League winner's medals, four FA Cup winner's medals, three League Cup winner's medals and two Champions League winner's medals.


LW/RW: George Best (N.Ireland)
Considered to be one of the greatest players ever played the game.  He was one of the "United's Trinity".  He led Manchester United to their first (and also first ever for an English club) European Cup in 1968.  He won the PWA PLayer of the Year award and the Ballon d'Or that year.

George Best

AM/CM: Paul Scholas (England)
Scholas was a member of Manchester United's Class of 1992.  He spent 20 years with Manchester United's first team.  He won 11 Premier League, three FA Cup and two UEFA Champions League winners medals.  He earned 66 caps for England before he retired from the Three Lions in 2004.

AM: Sir Bobby Charlton (England)
He was considered one of the greatest midfielders of all-time.  He led England to WC victory in 1966 and then, Manchester United to its first European Cup in 1968. He is also England's all-time leading scorer.  He won the Ballon D'Or in 1966.

Sir Bobby
FW: Denis Law  (Scotland)
Law spent 11 years at Manchester United, where he scored 237 goals in 404 appearances. His goals tally places him third in the club's history, behind Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. He partnered George Best and Bobby Charlton at Manchester United, which was considered to be most popular forward line in British history.  He was capped 55 times.  He managed to play in the 1974 WC Finals.

FW/LW: Cristano Ronaldo (Portugal)
He is one of the greatest forward of his generation.  He is the most expensive players in history from 2009-2013 when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid.  At the time of writing, he won the Ballon d'Or winner three times and won Champions' League titles with both Manchester United and Real Madrid.  In 2016, he helped Portugal to win the European Championship, a month after winning the Champions' League with Real Madrid.

Ronaldo's goal at the European Cup Final
FW: Eric Cantona (France)
Before joining Leeds United in 1992, Cantona was known as the bad boy of French football.  He moved to England to restart his career.  In England, he became a huge star.  He won the league title with Leeds United and moved to Manchester United.  At Manchester United, he became one of their best ever players. For the national team, he was a part of the ill-fated national team that failed to qualify for the WC in 1994. 
Eric the Red
ST: Mark Hughes (Wales)
Best remembered for his spells with Manchester United.   He won two Premier League title medals, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two European Cup Winners' Cups. He was the first player to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year award twice, in 1989 and 1991.

FW: Wayne Rooney(England)
In 2002, Rooney made his professional debut as a 16 years old with Everton.  Less than a year later, he became England's youngest international when he played against Australia.  He made his big tournament debut at Euro 2004.  he scored 4 goals and named as a member of the tournament's best XI.  At the time of writing, he is England's key player for every major tournament since Euro 2004.  As for Manchester United, he has won 5 Preimer League titles.  In 2008, he formed a partnership with Cristano Ronaldo and won the Champions' League.

Rooney with Ronaldo

Honorable Mention
Tommy Taylor, Nobby Stiles, Paddy Crerand, Tony Dunne, Steve Bruce, Steve Coppell, Jack Rowley, Paul McGrath, Gary Pallister, David Herd, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Norman Whiteside, Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Jack Rowley, Dennis Viollet, Patrice Evra, Jaap Stam, Gary Bailey.

Squad Explanation
-- Patrice Evra was great, but Irwin was Sir Alex's favourite player and Byrne was the captain of the Busby Babes.  It is difficult for me to select Evra over them.
-- Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole are on my honourable mention.  The pair was among the greatest striking partnership in football.  I selected the two of them in pairs.
-- Vidic played 9 seasons.  I took him over Stam.  I selected two older centerbacks from the pre-Premiership era, Buchan and Foulkes.  Paul McGrath's career was very mixed at Manchester United.  He would have been the greatest centerback, but he only made my honourable mention here.
--  Wayne Rooney is the most underrated striker in England's history.  His hype as a youngster while playing for Everton might create a false expectation. At times, he carried both Manchester United and the national team, but the media has not always been kind to him.  They did not appreciate his contribution.  At the same time, he made some critical mistakes while playing for England.  I am referring to the red card vs Portugal in 2006 and his reaction to the fans in 2010.  That led to a lot of unfair criticisms.  He is still the all-time leading scorer for England and Manchester United.

Sir Alex played a lot of 4-4-2 formations(except 2008). The Busby Babes also played with this formation.  Edwards or Robson could replace Keane on the lineup. I only put Edwards on the bench because mush of his reputation were unfortunately based upon projection of what it might have been.  Robson deserved to be a starter as much as anyone here.  Irwin could also start on the left.  I could not decide between Foulkes, Buchan, Rio and Vidic.  So I put the two, youngest players as the starters. This Manchester United has the depth to replace different players.  

Formation II
This is the formation and lineup I considered to be the best.  Ronaldo would be playing at his best position.  I prefer Charlton higher up the field.  Keane and Edwards could cover Sir Bobby in the middle.  Again, I can start Robson over Edward. I rate them almost the same.  Irwin can easily make the starting eleven.

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