Manchester United XI of Hard Men
Harry Redknapp once famously said, "In those days, the usual wear and tear of playing football was hardly noticed. Players would stomp their feet if they found out it was broken and continue playing. You'd only get sent off if you went after someone with a hatchet!"
These slides will assemble the roughest, toughest and meanest players to have donned a Manchester United shirt, one which could batter any team in its prime, in an attacking 4-3-3 formation.
He stood 6'4", weighed a little over 16 stone, wore specially made XXXL sized shirts, and scared the living daylights out of the opposing attackers. Enter, Peter Boleslaw Schmeichel.
After spending four years at Bronby, Schmeichel moved to Manchester United for a fee of half a million pounds in the year 1991, and was introduced to English football by Wimbledon FC and its Crazy Gang.
Despite his baptism of fire to the physicality of the English Premier League, he went on to become the best goalkeeper in the world during his 8 year spell at Manchester United.
His achievements include scoring a goal for the Red Devils against Rotor Volgograd, and lifting the treble in his final season with the club in 1999.
Of course, no hard man's United 11 can ever be complete without the inclusion of a rare one club man, known as 'Red Nev' by the rest of England, Gary Alexander Neville.
He signed professional forms with Manchester United in the year 1992, and for many years made the right-back slot as his own, after Paul Parker left the side at the end of the 1995-96 campaign.
He also, however, had a knack of being too honest, and stuck to his guns no matter how hard it might be. He even threatened a boycott of England's match against Turkey in a crucial 2004 Euro qualifier over the mismanagement of Rio Ferdinand's ban, and he almost got the whole team to follow his lead.
In a few words—diligent, hard-working and tough as nails.
Big, strong and scary, Stam would make even Liverpool hard-man Graeme Souness quake in his boots. Not one to take challenges lightly, the video will just about show you how scared the opposing player was after sticking a boot into Stam.
One of the few to cross Sir Alex Ferguson, he was sold to Lazio after only three years as a Manchester United player. Teddy Sherringham once said "He could pick you off with one arm and get the ball."
Not only was he big, he was quick, could read the game brilliantly, was a good passer and could expertly intercept any ball on the ground.
If the giant Stam could snuff out any danger along the ground, then Nemanja Vidic would take out any aerial threat, along with the nearby center forward.
An old-fashioned center half who made Fernando Torres look like a little schoolboy on his visits to Old Trafford in the 2010-11 season, he is one of the best defenders in the game today.
Bought from Spartak Moscow in the January transfer window of 2006, he did take a little bit of time to settle to the game, but once he did he was a nightmare for forwards in England and on the continent.
Tough, uncompromising, and brave, the ideal partner for Jaap Stam in defense.
For someone to be 34 years old and still be a starting player for Sir Alex Ferguson's side during the treble season, you just HAVE to be special.
Dennis Irwin, having started his career as a Leeds United player, played for Oldham Athletic before joining Manchester United. He never had to make last ditch tackles as he was perfect in his positional play, and would be comfortable playing on either fullback position.
Quiet and unassuming, he'd never make a fuss and gave his all for the team, whenever and wherever he played.
Take one look at Norbert Peter Stiles and you'd think how can a player who's just five and a half feet be a good footballer? He wasn't just good, he was terrific.
A product of the fabled United youth system, Nobby Stiles was a person who'd never lost a fight off the field, and made sure he wouldn't lose one the pitch either. On his debut a poor touch of the ball allowed it to drift away from him, and the player who got between him and the ball got smacked right on the temple by Nobby's fist.
Critics argue even today that it was his man-marking performance of Eusebio that allowed the English team to beat the high-flying Portuguese in the 1966 world up semi-final, en route to their only World Cup trophy. He was also a starting player in the 1968 European final for Manchester United against Benfica.
He may have worn dentures, and grown bald at a very young age, but he ensured that he played every minute of England's victorious campaign in 1966, and was the first no-nonsense holding midfielder for Manchester United.
Labelled as the hardest man in English football to date, he was a young apprentice boxer who later took up football.
He joined Manchester United for a record £3.75 million, snubbing Kenny Dalglish who was then the manager at Blackburn Rovers. Bought as a replacement for the oft-injured Bryan Robson, Roy Keane would however go on to cement his berth in central midfield for the next 12 years in a Manchester United side which would dominate the English Premier League.
His penchant for yellow cards, his infamous prawn sandwich statement and his various rants were nothing compared to how he would cut down to size the various players whom he felt were not giving it their all for the team. Just ask Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher.
His constant tussles with Patrick Vieira and his commitment and enthusiasm for the team were what endeared Keano to the Old Trafford faithful. His energy on the field even prompted Sir Alex Ferguson, after the historic 1999 semi final win over Juventus, to say - "I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player."
The terraces of Old Trafford still sing his name, and rightly so.
Imagine you're the youngest player to ever participate in the World Cup, the youngest since Duncan Edwards to play in the top-flight in England, and you look like a movie star. If you think Norman Whiteside was a skillful maestro in midfield, or a tricky winger, think again.
Having started under Ron Atkinson, Whiteside made his debut for the club when he was just 16, and moved from being a center forward to a central midfielder, destroying opposition play and going into every challenge expecting to win it.
'The scourge of the scousers, 'The Shankill Skinhead' were some of his names during his playing time in Manchester United, and he was also a fan favorite.
"He wasn't lightning fast, he was rather lightning slow but he knew where everyone was on the field when he received the ball" said Ron Atkinson.
He stood 6'2", was the best tackler during his prime, and was remembered as one of the many players whose career was cut short due to injury and drink.
Nonetheless, Norman Whiteside was an amazing player, whose physical, aggressive play was as good as his eye for goal, bagging 47 of them in 206 appearances for a midfielder.
Critics and comedians alike think it was because he lived in a cave during his childhood that he couldn't put a lid on his temper. His kung-fu style kick against a fan during a league match against Crystal Palace tried to drive home the point.
However, he was perhaps the best center forward the club had ever seen, and they still sing his name.
Eric Cantona had crossed the Pennines and joined Manchester United after winning his first Premier League title with Leeds United. He went on to become a fan favorite, despite the infamous flying kick against a Crystal Palace supporter.
Before his time in England he stirred up quite a few storms in France, where he had punched his team-mate, took out an opposing player, smashed a ball on the referee and called each individual member of the French Football disciplinary body an idiot.
However, "King Eric", as he is fondly remembered, was an Old Trafford legend. He was as hard as they come, and left his name in the annals of history in Manchester United and English football.
You could kick him, but he wouldn't fall. You could break his knee or ankle, but he'll play on, and even win you the game.
At the age of 15, a young lad from Wrexham had joined the Manchester United youth side and was slowly building his way up to break into the first team. 'Sparky', as he is fondly referred to by the Red Devil fans, was tough as nails and would never hesitate to jump headlong into a brawl.
Sir Alex Ferguson would go on to say how the players in the 1993-94 season would stick it out for each other, and if one of them got into a fight everyone else would jump in. That was the season when United had won their first ever league and cup double, and Mark Hughes even scored in the FA cup final that year at Wembley.
Despite spending a few years abroad at Barcelona, and later at Bayern Munich on loan, he returned to the Old Trafford club to which he devoted his best years.
He scored 119 goals in 345 appearances, and was best known for his bravery in winning the ball, staying on his feet despite getting kicked repeatedly by opposing players and scoring some fantastic goals too.
He has been in and out of the discipline books for elbowing opposing players, swearing into the camera and the likes, but no-one can be more intimidating in a starting line-up than Wayne Rooney.
Controversies apart, he's a nightmare for every defender and opposing team, and his energy, akin to Roy Keane's fiery passion, is what drives Manchester United on. His consistent performances, week in and week out, are what defines the club, makes him an all action player and the perfect No. 10.
He's just 25 and doesn't look like burning out or finishing his career anytime soon. A menace to defenders, he doesn't go down easily and ensures he burns his lungs out by the time he finishes his 90 minutes on the pitch.
So there we have it—a United XI which consists of the meanest, roughest, yet most gifted and amazing players. Feel free to leave your comments, suggestions/criticisms. Cheers!