Manchester United's Dream Team: Red Devils' 11 Best Players Under Sir Alex

Jaideep Vaidya@@jaideepjournoAnalyst IAugust 5, 2011

Manchester United's Dream Team: Red Devils' 11 Best Players Under Sir Alex

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    Sir Alex Ferguson has been a father figure to a number of wunderkinds and stars in his time at Manchester United.

    Ferguson is the most successful British manager in the history of the game and has won more than 30 trophies during his time in charge of the Reds.

    The Scotsman, who took charge of Ron Atkinson's sinking vessel back in 1986, transformed Manchester United from a mid-table team to a 19-time league-winning side.

    Ferguson has seen a lot of things change around him in his time at Old Trafford. Players, staff, stadiums, rules, technology, etc. But the 69-year-old has been the only constant in a quarter of a century of transitions at the club.

    Many a star player and celebrity with an enormous ego has come and gone but not before bowing down to the biggest ego of them all, Sir Alex.

    This is one of the reasons the club is so successful. Because no player is bigger than the manager and the club. Ferguson's "my way or the highway" policy is what drives the players and the club to success each and every year.

    This November, Sir Alex will complete 25 years at the helm of the most successful club in English football history. A distinction which was achieved by no small contribution from the great man himself.

    But he couldn't have achieved it without his protégés, the players he crafted and molded into world-beaters over the years. 

    A quarter of a century is a long time. Hundreds of players have come and gone belonging to different generations.

    But I've often wondered what it would be if the best of Ferguson's crop were drafted into one dream team. Wouldn't that be something!

    So here's my version of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United Dream XI.

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel

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    Peter Boleslaw Schmeichel (incidentally one of the best middle names I've ever heard!) arrived at Manchester United in the summer of '91.

    Sir Alex Ferguson landed the 6'4", 16-stone shot-stopper for a cut-price £550,000. This later turned out to be one of the deals of the century as Schmeichel recorded 22 clean sheets in the 1992-93 season, thereby helping United win their first league title in 26 years.

    Schmeichel was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" for two consecutive years in 1992 and 1993. He later went on to win five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one UEFA Champions League and one League Cup with United.

    The "Great Dane," as he was known, was an intimidating presence in front of goal. He used to wear tailor-made XXXL jerseys on the pitch, such was his stature.

    Schmeichel often defied the laws of gravity between the sticks and was hardly ever seen with his feet on the ground.

    It's usually the goalkeepers who are intimidated by forwards charging towards them with the ball. But when Schmeichel was involved, it was the other way round!

    Schmeichel spent eight glorious years at Old Trafford. His last season with the Red Devils was truly a historic one as United went on to win the treble in 1999. His last game for United was as captain in the Champions League Final, which United won 2-1 against Bayern Munich.

    Schmeichel remains the best goalkeeper Manchester United have ever had in their ranks. It took Sir Alex a lot of trial-and-error keepers to finally find a worthy replacement in Edwin van der Sar, six years after Schmeichel hung up his gloves.

Right-Back: Gary Neville

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    Gary Neville, a born-and-bred Manchester United fan, spent his whole career at Old Trafford.

    One of the famous Fergie's Fledglings, Neville captained the young Reds to a FA Youth Cup triumph in 1991.

    After graduating to the first team, Neville cemented is place at right-back and became synonymous with the position over the years.

    Neville was always the in-your-face kind of player and never let go an opportunity to have a go at opposition players and fans alike. A particular incident at Anfield few years back is still crystal clear in the minds of the Liverpool fans.

    Neville was never liked by rival teams and often got booed on the pitch at away games. But he didn't give a damn!

    He took the flak in his stride and it gave him the motivation to hit back with solid performances.

    After Roy Keane's departure in November 2005, Neville, aged 30, took over the captain's armband.

    But age and injuries limited his appearances for the Red Devils since.

    Neville, always the team man, relinquished his captaincy last year so that a first-team regular could take over.

    Finally, after almost 20 years as United's No. 2, Neville decided to hang up his boots in February this year.

    His testimonial match was played at Old Trafford at the end of the season against Juventus. All of Fergie's Fledglings turned up for the game to provide a fitting tribute to one of Manchester United's most loyal soldiers.

Center-Back: Gary Pallister

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    Gary Pallister, a lifelong Middlesbrough fan, was signed from the North Eastern club for a British record fee for a defender at the time of £2.3 million.

    Pallister soon justified his price-tag as he formed a formidable partnership with Steve Bruce at the center of United's defense. The Pallister-Bruce partnership is still considered one of the best central defensive partnerships in the club's history.

    Pallister was not the fastest of defenders, but he made up for his lack of pace with his phenomenal body strength and an innate ability to read the mind of the player attacking his goal.

    The 6'4" bloke also scored some crucial and memorable goals for United.

    He converted a free kick against Blackburn Rovers on the last day of the 1992-93 season, he scored two decisive goals in either leg of the FA Cup semifinal against Crystal Palace in 1996, and in the very next season, he scored a brace against Liverpool at Anfield in what was billed as the title-decider.

    Pallister won four league titles, three FA Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and a League Cup in his nine years at Manchester United.

Center-Back: Nemanja Vidic

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    Sir Alex Ferguson had been trailing Nemanja Vidic for almost two-and-a-half years before he finally made his move in the January transfer window of 2006. 

    Manchester United fans had hardly heard about the big Serb when he completed his £7 million move from Spartak Moscow and were highly skeptical about the signing.

    Vidic made his United debut as a substitute for Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Carling Cup semifinal against Blackburn that year. He had a shaky start but didn't take much time to get used to the physicality of the English game.

    Vidic started making more and more appearances in the 2006-07 season and soon formed a formidable centre-back partnership with Rio Ferdinand.

    Vidic soon became the heartbeat of United's renowned defense that kept a record-breaking 14 consecutive clean sheets in the 2008-09 season, en route to the league title. Vidic won the Barclays Player of the Season gong that season.

    The Serb also developed his attacking instincts over the years and is quite a threat in the 18-yard box during set-pieces.

    Today, Nemanja Vidic is one of the most feared defenders in the world and is known for literally throwing his 6'3" stocky frame at the opponent. More often than not, Vidic gets the ball and leaves the opponent on the floor like a freight train has hit him!

    Vidic is admired and feared among his teammates for his no-nonsense approach to the game and is often heard blaring out expletives on the field and motivating his team forward. It's no wonder that he took over the captain's armband from Neville last season.

    The United faithful rightly sing about their current captain, "Nemanja...woah...Nemanja...woah! He comes from Serbia, he'll f&%$in' murder ya!"

    Damn right he will!

Left-Back: Denis Irwin

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    Denis Irwin was signed by Sir Alex in 1990 from Oldham Athletic for £625,000. The gaffer was to later describe it as his greatest ever "pound-for-pound" signing.

    Irwin was a versatile full back and could play on either flank. At United, he played predominantly on the left flank, a position he was to make his own over the years.

    The Irishman was as reliable a defender as they come and remained the first choice left back for Sir Alex way into his 30s. He also sprinkled around some crucial goals, being a free-kick and penalty specialist.

    Irwin is one of United's most decorated players. In his 12 years at Old Trafford, Irwin won six league titles, three FA Cups, one Champions League, one European Cup Winners' Cup, one European Super Cup and a League Cup.

    Irwin made his last appearance for the Red Devils at Old Trafford against Charlton Athletic on the last day of the 2001-02 season, for which he was handed the captain's armband by Sir Alex.

Right Wing: David Beckham

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    Oh, how I miss those free kicks!

    David Robert Joseph Beckham signed on for Manchester United from the Tottenham youth setup in 1991 and immediately helped the young Red Devils win the Youth Cup the following year.

    A member of Fergie's Fledglings, Beckham soon took over the No. 7 jersey left behind by Eric Cantona and carried forward the legacy of the jersey to grandeur.

    Beckham played on the right flank for United and chipped in with numerous assists and sublime goals. He was a dead-ball specialist and one of the most feared ones of his time.

    He immortalized the phrase "Bend it like Beckham" with his elegant and shockingly accurate benders. Coupled with his dashing good looks, he became a runaway celebrity. Girls wanted to be with him, whereas guys wanted to be like him!

    This was, however, the major reason why Beckham had a fallout with Sir Alex in the early 2000s. Ferguson repeatedly criticized his celebrity ways and openly voiced his dislike toward Beckham's courtship and eventual marriage to pop-star Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams.

    Sir Alex finally shipped Beckham off to Real Madrid in the summer of 2003, following a heated physical argument after United's FA Cup defeat to Arsenal.

    But even though Beckham's United career ended sourly, he still maintains huge respect toward the manager and the club. Manchester United was, is and will always remain his favorite club.

    Beckham has returned to Old Trafford twice as a player following his departure, once with AC Milan and once for Gary Neville's testimonial.

    He still remains a darling among United fans, who fondly sing about their favorite son, "There's only one Beckham!"


Center Midfield: Roy Keane (Captain)

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    After being noticed at Nottingham Forest, Roy Keane was set to sign for Blackburn Rovers, then managed by Kenny Dalglish, in the summer of '93.

    However, a cheeky phone call from Sir Alex dramatically made the 22-year-old Keane sign for Manchester United instead, for a British record fee of £3.75 million, to Dalglish's rage.

    Keane took a while to break into the first team but got his chance when an ageing Bryan Robson, incidentally Keane's boyhood idol, went out with injury.

    The Irishman took full advantage of his opportunity by scoring a brace in his home debut against Sheffield United. Three months later, he grabbed the winner in United's 3-2 comeback win over Manchester City at Maine Road.

    Keane then slowly began to cement his place in the United midfield alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

    Known for his shrewd, no-nonsense attitude and highly competitive style of play, Keane eventually took over as club captain after Eric Cantona's retirement.

    Keane carried forward Cantona's legacy of astuteness and aggressiveness and became one of the most dynamic captains United has ever produced. No one could take Roy Keane for granted. Ask Patrick Vieira.

    Keane led United to nine major titles and remains one of the most successful captains in club history.

Center Midfield: Paul Scholes

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    What do I, a mere mortal, write about Paul Scholes that hasn't been written already!

    I'll leave you with some quotes by some of the sport's greatest:

    Sir Alex Ferguson: "It doesn’t matter who I am thinking about bringing into my midfield, Paul Scholes will be included, as he would in any side in the world."

    Sir Bobby Charlton: "Paul Scholes is my favourite player. He epitomises the spirit of Manchester United and everything that is good about football. He’s always so in control and pinpoint accurate with his passing, a beautiful player to watch."

    Marcelo Lippi: "Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team - that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. Scholes is a player I have always liked, because he combines great talent and technical ability with mobility, determination and a superb shot.

    He is an all-around midfielder who possesses character and quality in abundance. In my opinion, he's been one of the most important players for United under Sir Alex."

    Gordon Strachan: "Paul Scholes has been the best England midfield player for 30-odd years. You'd probably have to go back to Bobby Charlton to find someone who could do as much as Scholes.

    When the ball arrives at his feet he could tell you where every player on that pitch is at that moment. His awareness is superb."

    Xavi: "Paul Scholes is a role model. For me, and I really mean this, he's the best central midfielder I've seen in the last 15 to 20 years. He's spectacular, he has it all, the last pass, goals, he's strong, he doesn't lose the ball, vision. If he'd been Spanish, he might have been rated more highly. Players love him."

    Cesc Fabregas: "He is the one whose level I aspire to. He is the best player in the Premier League."

    Zinedine Zidane: "My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder."

    After 676 appearances for the Red Devils in which he scored 150 goals, Paul Scholes announced his retirement from football at the end of last season.

    Football will never be the same without him.

Left Wing: Ryan Giggs

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    Ryan Giggs, aged 14, was snapped up from the Manchester City youth system in 1987, and thank God for that!

    The young Giggs then toned his skills along with the rest of Fergie's Fledglings and was soon vehemently knocking on the door of the first team. 

    Giggs eventually broke through and scored his first professional goal for United in the 1991 Manchester derby.

    So impressive were his performances for the Reds that the media soon labelled him as the next big thing in English football. He became the first player in the history of the game to win two back-to-back PFA Young Player of the Year awards in 1992 and 1993. 

    The Welshman soon shoved Lee Sharpe off the role of the first-choice left winger and went on to make the position his own personal property over the years.

    Like good wine, Giggs just got better with age. He became one of the most reliable members of Sir Alex's red army and tormented the opposition with consummate ease.

    The Old Trafford faithful were soon heard warning the opposition that, "Giggs will tear you apart!"

    Giggs was one of the proud owners of the first ever Premier League winners medal in 1992-93 and went on to win 11 more titles, the last of which came this May. He also has the distinction of being the only player to have scored in each and every Premier League season since its inception in 1992-93.

    At 37, Giggs still delivers what's asked of him. He may have lost the raw pace that he had in his younger days, but he can still rip you a new one if you take him too lightly.

    After a glorious career spanning over 20 years (and counting) at Old Trafford, Giggs is the most decorated British footballer ever.

    Other than his record 12 league titles, he has won two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups and three League Cups.

    He hasn't had enough yet!

    As the Welsh wizard completes two decades in the Manchester United first team, a popular banner in the Stretford End reads, "Giggs—tearing you apart since 1991."

Forward: Eric Cantona

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    After just one year at hated rivals Leeds United, Eric Cantona joined Manchester United for £1.2 million in November 1992. 

    United were in dire need of a striker and Cantona, who had moved to England from France under the advise of Gerard Houllier, fit the bill completely.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's guidance moulded the hot-tempered Frenchman into a striker who would be feared for both his on-field and off-field capers.

    Kung-fu kicks on opposition fans and metaphorical rants at the media involving seagulls put aside, Eric Cantona remains one of Ferguson's finest signings and one of the finest captains the club has graced.

    King Cantona, as he is known as among the United faithful, scored 80 goals for the club in five glorious seasons. His charisma, dynamism and temper is missed even today.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    The same summer David Beckham left for Real Madrid, Manchester United played an exhibition match at Sporting Lisbon's new stadium.

    This was when a young, prodigious talent called Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro caught the eyes of the United players and manager alike.

    Sir Alex Ferguson immediately made a move for the 18-year-old, and Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in a deal worth £12 million.

    Ronaldo was given Beckham's No. 7 jersey, also worn previously by greats such as Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona. The youngster had some big shoes to fill in.

    In November that year, young Ronaldo stepped up to take a free kick against Portsmouth. United fans, who had lost their beloved Beckham, watched with bated breath as the new guy attempted to fill into Beckham's shoes.

    Ronaldo calmly took his wide-legged stance behind the ball, observed the goal, calculated the angle and the distance and shot.

    The rest, as they say, is history!


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    Wow! What a team that would have been! Makes you wonder what would have happened if these guys were of the same generation! 

    And I can't even begin to describe the plethora of talent I had to leave behind on the bench!

    Here are the five substitutes of this virtually unbeatable team:

    GK: Edwin van der Sar

    Def: Steve Bruce

    Mid: Bryan Robson

    Fwd: Ruud van Nistelrooy

    Fwd: Wayne Rooney


    Hope you've liked this compilation! If you've got any other choices in any of the positions, feel free to shoot away in the comments section below!