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Manchester United: Picking a Left-Footed XI in the EPL Era

Max TowleAnalyst INovember 12, 2012

Manchester United: Picking a Left-Footed XI in the EPL Era

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    With Ryan Giggs no longer physically capable of tearing defenders apart on the flanks and Nani's preference for his favoured position on the right wing, Manchester United's current lack of a true left-sided winger has been highlighted in recent years.

    The importance of having left footed players in a squad is often preached by the all-knowing pundits, but in compiling a best XI of United players in the Premier League who favour their left, very few standouts come to mind.

    There are the obvious few—Giggs, Bryan Robson and now Robin van Persie—but not many others.

    With the exception of Robson, there is an obvious dearth of top quality central defenders and midfielders here. One possible reason for this may be the fact that youngsters with a left foot are often shunted out to left-back or on the left wing when they start playing football.

    But then it may also just be coincidence that Sir Alex Ferguson has never coached many truly world class left-footed players.

    So when you take a gander at the XI best Red Devils here, know that it's not the fault of the players that they're the best of their kind to run out in United red in the past 20 years.

    Because left-footed footballers are human beings too.

GK: Fabien Barthez

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    I was only able to attend about half-a-dozen games at Old Trafford during the Fabien Barthez-era, but every time I did, it seemed he would make some sort of catastrophic flub to give United's opponents a goal.

    So why is he on this list, I hear you ask? Simple—how many left-footed Manchester United goalkeepers can you name?

    Don't get me wrong, though, the post-kicking Barthez was by no means a horrible player, only that my own personal experiences shape my opinion of him for the worse.

    Besides, no slouch ever racked up 87 caps for country and played well over 100 times for the Red Devils.

LB: Patrice Evra

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    I like to think that the Patrice Evra included in this lineup is the one from the 2008/09 season—arguably his best in a United shirt.

    Though he now struggles with the basics of marking and positional defending, Evra probably ranks as the Red Devils' second greatest left-back in the Premier League era.

    The greatest, Dennis Irwin, fails to make this team purely because he's actually right-footed. Harsh, right?

    The controversial Frenchman is no longer a fan favourite at Old Trafford, but ironically, he's still probably the best defender in this XI.

CB: Mikael Silvestre

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    Though known primarily as a left-back during his time at Old Trafford, Mikael Silvestre was also capable of filling in at the heart of defence.

    The Frenchman spent a surprisingly long amount of time playing under Sir Alex Ferguson—he had moved from Inter Milan in 1999 and only left for Arsenal in 2008.

    Though not a United legend by any stretch of the imagination, he was a reliable role player for much of his time in Manchester.

    Who knows, if Silvestre had stayed fit for the 2007/08 season, he may even have remained on the books far longer as a backup to Evra.

CB: Gabriel Heinze

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    The tenacious Gabby Heinze may have infuriated some at Old Trafford by demanding a move to Liverpool towards the end of his spell at United.

    But fans of the club rarely hold grudges for former players, and when the Argentinian defender returned to Manchester with Marseille in 2011, the reaction was nothing but fondness.

    Heinze even captained the Red Devils a couple of times in 2007—such was Sir Alex's regard for his leadership skills.

    Like Silvestre, the versatile player is primarily a left-back also worthy in the centre of defence when called upon.

RB: Quinton Fortune

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    OK, OK, I know what you're thinking—why is Quinton Fortune, a player known mostly for his exploits on the left wing, taking the field for this XI at right-back?

    The answer to that question is twofold:

    1. Can you name any left-footed right-backs to have played for United in the past 20 years?

    2. Fortune was one of the most versatile players in Red Devils history and often earned his spurs in the most unlikely positions on the pitch.

    I have no doubt that, on his day, he could have ably filled in on the right side of defence.

LM: Ryan Giggs

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    Oh, Ryan Giggs—United legend, world football great—how you have stolen the hearts of so many, so often.

    The flying Welsh winger cannot be defined by numbers, even though over 900 appearances for one club certainly sounds impressive.

    He cannot be defined by goals or assists either, even though he has found the back of the net in 22 successive campaigns.

    Rather, Ryan Giggs is a byword for consistent excellence and should really be entered into the Oxford Dictionary under both terms.

CM: Bryan Robson

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    The fierce Bryan Robson is another true United great.

    Captain Marvel was one of the most well-rounded players of his day—a goalscoring midfielder tenacious in the tackle and deadly with the pass—he is exactly the type of player Sir Alex could well use in his current squad.

    Though Robbo's time in Manchester was dwindling by the time the Premier League was introduced, there was no way he was going to be left out of this XI.

    It's a shame he has been a failure as a manager in his post-football career, but as one of the best players of his generation, his legacy in the game is secure.

CM: Anderson

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    The Brazilian Anderson still has plenty of work to do at Old Trafford before he can shake the dreaded "transfer flop" tag.

    He has shown glimpses of brilliance while at United, but has lacked the type of consistency that leads to a regular place in the first team.

    The central midfielder's medal cabinet is more stocked than most though—he has won the Premier League three times and the Champions League once since joining the club from Porto in 2007.

    He still has time to prove himself worthy of the £20 million paid for his services, but not much.

RM: Lee Sharpe

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    Enfant Terrible turned a classic tale of failed potential, Lee Sharpe's career trajection left a lot of fans disappointed in Manchester.

    The tricky winger blazed a trail that Ryan Giggs eventually eclipsed—making right-backs look foolish with his marauding runs down the left flank.

    Injuries and a lack of discipline can be blamed for his frustrating late-20's.

    But with Giggs in the team, who really needs Sharpe?

    

ST: Louis Saha

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    Playing in attack in a conventional 4-4-2 is the fourth Frenchman in the team—Louis Saha.

    The clinical striker scored 42 times in 124 games at Old Trafford, though was hampered in his plight to become a regular starter by injuries and inconsistency.

    On his day, Saha's blistering left-foot shot was as deadly as any in the game.

    He is the man Rio Ferdinand once described as "quick, strong, aggressive" and the "toughest opponent" he ever faced (via The Mirror).

ST: Robin van Persie

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    Sir Alex Ferguson is currently laughing at all those who questioned his decision to pay £24 million for Robin van Persie in the summer, laughing like only a grizzled Scotsman can.

    The Dutchman has quickly become the Red Devils' newest talisman, scoring goals for fun in the most timely fashion.

    His left foot is as deadly as feet come, or any other part of the footballer's anatomy for that matter.

    Eleven goals in 14 games isn't a bad return, but his impact on the team can't be measured by mere numbers.

     

    What do you think about United's best left footed XI? Are there players who have slipped my mind that are more deserving than the likes of Quinton Fortune and Gabriel Heinze? Prove your knowledge of pretty useless Manchester United trivia!

    Follow @MaxTowle

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