All-Time Line Up: Manchester United
Many of you who read this by now will have seen Thomas Leemon's United XI which has had its critics, so I would like to offer my alternative vision of the ultimate line up of players from arguably the world's greatest football team.
To start, we need a formation and I'm going to start with a 4-3-3 style that we saw employed so successfully last year, but given the players I ultimately choose, I may change this.
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel [1991-99, 398 appearances, one goal]
All three serious contenders for this position have won European Cups/Champions Leagues. But its the Great Dane that wins through, having shown consistency throughout eight very successful seasons (five League Titles, three FA Cups, one CL).
But it is more than this that makes him one of the first names on an all-time United team sheet. His unique character and his vociferous command of a number of talented back-fours has not yet been properly replaced since his retirement nine years ago.
Honourable mention goes to Alex Stepney.
Left Back: Roger Byrne [1949-58, 280 appearances, 20 goals]
Whilst Byrne is perhaps not the most celebrated of United's defenders, he makes this list as another leader, captaining United for half of his time there and for establishing a new dimension to full-back play. Byrne helped to pioneer the wing full-back role to pose another threat to defences.
His career saw him win three league medals and 33 England caps, but his life was tragically cut short by the Munich air disaster of February 1958, at the age of just 28 and at the peak of his career.
Honourable mentions go to Tony Dunne and Denis Irwin.
Centre Backs: Bill Foulkes [1951-70, 688 appearances, nine goals] and Steve Bruce [1987-96, 414 appearances, 51 goals]
Bill Foulkes is one of the club's longest serving players, third on the all-time list of most appearances. Having survived the air disaster of '58, Foulkes became club captain and led the side through one of the toughest stages in its history. He continued to be an ever-present defensive rock, collecting four league titles and the 1968 European Cup.
Steve Bruce was never the most glamorous of centre backs compared with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Fabio Cannavaro, but he was successful and led the side to the Double in two of his three seasons as captain. Remarkably never capped by England, Bruce formed a formidable partnership in central defence with Gary Pallister, as well as providing an attacking threat, scoring a remarkable 19 goals in the 1990-91 season.
Honourable mentions go to Rio Ferdinand and Martin Buchan.
Right Back: Duncan Edwards [1953-58, 177 appearances, 21 goals]
Able to play in almost any outfield position, much of Edwards' career is shrouded by what could have been. Seen as one of the best players in Europe at the time of his death in 1958 aged 21, Edwards would almost certainly have gone on to greatness.
Aged just 16 years, 185 days on debut, Edwards went on to win two league medals as one of the stars of the Busby Babes. Most notably, Tommy Docherty said "there is no doubt in my mind that Duncan would have become the greatest player ever" and Bobby Charlton insists that Edwards was "the only player that made me feel inferior."
Honourable Mention goes to Gary Neville.
Left Midfield: Ryan Giggs [1991-Present, 759 appearances, 144 goals]
Possibly the most decorated player in the history of domestic football, with 10 League medals, four FA Cups and two Champions Leagues amongst others. Little needs to be said about Giggs, who will always be remembered as a United legend, if only for the chest hair displayed having scored that fantastic goal against Arsenal in the '99 FA Cup semi-final replay.
Central Midfield: Bobby Charlton [1956-73, 758 appearances, 249 goals]
As with Giggs, so little needs to be said. Like Foulkes, a survivor of the Munich air disaster, he went on to win the European Cup as well as three League titles and the World Cup. Still United's top scorer, averaging 0.33 goals a game from midfield, as well as England's highest scorer with 49 goals. A remarkable player and should be the first name on any all-time United team sheet.
Honourable Mentions go to Roy Keane and Bryan Robson.
Right Midfield: George Best [1963-74, 470 appearances, 179 goals]
Best's was a remarkable talent, which could have seen even more success had he taken care of himself. In 1968, Best won the European Cup with United, as well as being crowned European Footballer of the Year. Possibly the best player never to play in a World Cup, his cult status is nicely captured up by a Northern Irish tribute to him: "Maradona good, Pele better, George Best."
Honourable Mentions go to Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.
At this point it becomes clear to me that a formation change is needed and I am now switching to a 4-4-2, with one of the midfielders playing just off the strikers.
Attacking Midfield: Paul Scholes [1993 to Present, 570 appearances, 139 goals]
One of the quietest and most unassuming personalities in modern football. Scholes is one of the last of a dying breed of players who do all of their talking on the field. His strike of the ball with his right foot is possibly the most ferocious of all modern footballers, as most of the Premier League has found out the hard way. Almost as decorated as Giggs, with eight League titles, three FA Cups and two CLs.
Strikers: Denis Law [1962-73, 404 appearances, 237 goals] and Eric Cantona [1992-1997, 185 appearances, 82 goals]
Its hard to put Law on this list after he relegated United whilst playing for Manchester City, but his goalscoring record makes it harder not to. Scoring comfortably over a goal every two games, Law's prolific scoring included 46 goals in one season, a feat that remains unmatched for United.
Law is the only Scottish player ever to win the European Footballer of the Year and formed a wonderful attacking trio with Best and Charlton for the best years of his United career.
Whilst Cantona's was not the longest of careers, it was action packed and very succesful. Having won the League with Leeds in 91-92, he moved to United and immediately won the league, followed by the Double the next year.
Hindered by an erratic personality, he is most remembered by many for his "kung-fu" at Crystal Palace and for his bizarre comments to the media. Nicknamed King Eric, his influence saw thousands of schoolboys turning their collars up for a number of years.
Honourable Mentions go to Mark Hughes and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Manager: An impossible decision. I would have to give it to both Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson.
So, that's my XI. Let me know what you think.
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