Basing my best XI on players I have never seen play or only seen on clips of years gone by, by reputation and status alone – greats that they are, they are not to be included in my team of greats. Instead, it’s players I have seen, witnessed from the Stretford End by my very eyes or my earliest memories as I started supporting United as a boy from around 1990 to the present day.
The goalkeeper, only two worthy candidates, Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van der Sar. The Dutchman pips the Dane to my number 1. Both worthy greats and both etched in history. Edwin will be remembered for his penalty winning save in the Champions League final. Schmeichel however, simply can not cross the divide and play for the blue side of Manchester and expect to make it into my greatest team.
Now both these keepers were part of a solid back five, Edwin had G.Nev, Rio, Vidic and Evra whilst Pete had Parker, Bruce, Pallister and Irwin. I need to split these solid rear guard heroes to make it into the XI.
At right back, and captain of my team, my first pick, Gary Neville. This is a man whose blood is red through and through, loyal and passionate, a brilliant defender but also an excellent final delivery going forward. Vidic also makes it, the ‘Serbinator’ would have made the perfect partner for my next pick, Steve Bruce. His 2 injury time winning goals against Sheffield Wednesday was possibly the major turning point in United’s success ever since. I honestly can’t pick a winner between Irwin and Evra, my most difficult decision. Irwin is going to edge it, as he was a better defender. Evra was the best left back ever as an attacking outlet but if you add Irwin’s set piece capabilities he just, just nudges Evra out of the side.
Into midfield on the right wing, Andrei Kanchelskis. The Russian was a part of the famous side that began United’s journey of countless silverware. He has solid competition from the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo but the flying Russian was my favourite player growing up. On the left, no doubt every Red’s pick, Ryan Giggs. He had a grace in running that wasn’t so much how fast he could run with the ball but how his body shapes and movement, skill and confidence set him a level above the rest.
In the middle without any shadow of doubt, Paul Scholes. The magician. He knew how to find the net and boy we all know how he can find a pass. The final place in midfield goes to Bryan Robson, the warrior. A leader of all leaders, to add to the many leaders already in this team. Roy Keane just misses out, Paul Ince had a shout, his decision to join Liverpool exiles him completely from any greatest XI team.
Up top and the final 2 picks. The king, Eric Cantona. A genius and a maverick. He was exactly what United needed at exactly the right time. His temperament strangely only made United fans adore him even more. Mark Hughes would have made my team, no question but again, how can you be a great, the greatest at your club only to go on manage the other half of Manchester so, sorry Sparky, you’re out. To partner Eric, the best finisher the club has ever known. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His record speaks for itself. You wouldn’t want any other man on the end of an Eric Cantona through ball than the baby faced assassin.
Van Der Sar
G.Neville, Bruce, Vidic, Irwin
Kanchelskis, Scholes, Robson, Giggs