Manchester United: Alex Ferguson’s Best Side Ever?

Jeff HarbertSenior Writer IMay 24, 2008

In 1999 Sir Alex Ferguson led Manchester United to a historic treble, winning the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champions League.  The squad which achieved the extraordinary feat nine years ago was considered Ferguson’s best ever side, until now. 

Ferguson’s class of 2008 can draw many comparisons with the 99’ treble winners, with both teams boasting success in the Premier League and Champions League.  Here’s a look at some of the fundamental players from both eras. 

Peter Schmeichel is considered as one of the best goalkeepers to ever pass through Old Trafford.  The Great Dane was a vital reason for United’s success in the 90’s.  Edwin Van der Sar moved to United three years ago and has finally put an end to United’s goalkeeping problems.  The giant Dutchman has already helped United to victory in the Carling Cup final, two Premier League titles and now a Champions League trophy.  Reliable and experienced, Van der Sar is an important member in the present United squad.

Jaap Stam was as commanding presence for United at the center of defense.  The Dutchman was especially known for his physical presence and imperative to United’s defense.  Nemanja Vidic has developed into one of the best defenders in England and also possesses an immense physical presence.  United has often struggled without Vidic and look frail at times without the Serb. 

Ronny Johnsen’s spell at Old Trafford was cut short to due to injury, but the Norwegian still managed to play an important role in United’s success in 1999.  Rio Ferdinand, on the other hand, is one of the best centre-backs in the world and is probably the second most important player for United behind Ronaldo.  Ferdinand has often captained United and has been a rock for United at the back. 

Andy Cole was fundamental for United in the Premier League and their run to the Champions League final in 99’.  The Englishman finished with 24 goals in all competitions and formed a great partnership with Dwight Yorke.  Wayne Rooney is the driving force for United.  Despite sometimes lacking the goals expected from him, Rooney physical strength and determination has helped United to success both home and abroad this season.  His partnership with Carlos Tevez has been crucial for United this season as well. 

Roy Keane is undeniably one of the best midfielders to ever play for Manchester United.  After he hung up his boots, even Sir Alex Ferguson described Keane as the best player he had ever coached.  The former United captain was a tremendous leader and the driving force behind United’s midfield.  Keane’s will to win was greater than that of anyone else.  Michael Carrick arrived at Old Trafford soon after Keane left to finish off his playing days at Celtic.  Carrick’s willingness to defend and his range of passing has been a huge boost for United.  He may not be as good as Roy Keane, but he is indisputably a fantastic midfielder.

Dwight Yorke was never shy of goals and is best known for his deadly striking partnership with Andy Cole.  The Trinidadian scored some vital goals for United.  Carlos Tevez is a nightmare for opposition defenses.  The Argentinean’s work ethic is second to none and his goal scoring contribution hasn’t been disappointing either.  Tevez has formed a fantastic partnership with Wayne Rooney up front and has scored some crucial goals for his side this season both in the Champions League and the Premier League.

David Beckham, one of the greatest number sevens to ever pass through Old Trafford, was sensational for United during their treble winning season.  His passing and crossing from the right wing was a major reason for the amount of goals Yorke and Cole scored.  Cristiano Ronaldo was brought in after Beckham’s departure and his swift development for the club made Beckham’s exit seemingly insignificant.  The Portuguese winger topped the scoring charts in England this season and was unsurprisingly voted as the Premier League’s best player.  United’s number seven has even been hailed as the world’s best footballer and he is undoubtedly key to United’s success.

Nicky Butt was often overshadowed by Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, but the Mancunian was still a vital member of Ferguson’s squad.  His tough tackling made the most fearless midfielders wary.  Owen Hargreaves endured a slow start to his United career do to injury but the Canadian born midfielder is now excelling at Old Trafford.  Hargreaves’ versatility has proven essential to United’s success this season with the England international filling in on more than one occasion at right back.     

Dennis Irwin was as solid as a left-back came.  His steady performances at right back earned him the nickname “Mr. Consistency.”  Patrice Evra has developed into one of the world’s best left backs.  Evra is reliable on defense and a huge threat going forward. 

Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Gary Neville were all important members of Ferguson’s treble winning squad in 1999 and all of them have played important roles in United’s success this season. 

Neville only played ten minutes all season but is still regarded as an influence in the locker room.  Scholes and Giggs may not have played as many games as they have in the past, but the two are still a major reason for United’s success this season. 

Honorable mentions from Ferguson’s 1999 squad include Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham, who famously scored the late goals in United’s triumph over Bayern Munich Champions League final.  Honorable mentions from the class of 2008 comprise of Anderson, Nani, and Fletcher.  All three have stepped up when called upon and are all bright prospects for the future. 

After looking over some of the key players for United from 1999 and 2008, it seems as if Ferguson’s current squad is his best ever.  And the good news is the squad is still relatively young and hungrier than ever for more success.      


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