Why the present Manchester United side is Fergie’s best ever vintage
Alex Ferguson is forever claiming his latest Man U line-up is the best he’s ever assembled. But this time he might just be right.
Tony Cascarino, 21 Nov 2007
I have to say I laughed at the weekend when Alex Ferguson claimed this is the best Manchester United side he’s managed because he’s said the same thing three of four times before! As for whether or not he’s right, I thought it’d be interesting to compare the team that won the 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich with his best XI now.
SCHMEICHEL V VAN DER SAAR:
Some people might argue for David Seaman, but pound for pound I think Peter Schmeichel is the best Premiership goalkeeper ever. He made three or four incredible saves in that Champions League Final, and had a bit more presence than Van Der Saar who doesn’t always marshall the back four like he should do.
NEVILLE V NEVILLE: The pros are that he’s more experienced and reads the game better now, and the cons are that the injuries he’s had have cost him a bit of pace. Overall, I think he’s slightly more of an asset to Man U in ’07 than he was in ’99.
STAM V FERDINAND: At his best, which he was for two years, Jaap was a better defender and had more physical presence than Rio who’s done well but needs to cut those daydreaming moments out of his game.
JOHNSEN V VIDIC: Ronnie was a solid performer but I don’t think he was as good technically as Vidic and certainly didn't get as many goals.
IRWIN V EVRA: The toughest call yet! Evra’s been absolutely brilliant this season, but Dennis was an 8 or 9 out of 10 player every time he pulled on the red shirt. But for Beckham he’d have scored a lot more goals because he was a fabulous free-kick taker.
Long-term the Frenchman might just eclipse him, but for the time being I’m staying loyal to my former Ireland teammate.
BECKHAM V RONALDO: Cristiano. He’s got more pace, more power, more goals and is able to head the ball. David’s a better deliverer and passer of the ball, but in every other department he’s second best. I think the gulf between the two will become even more pronounced as Ronaldo keeps on learning and refining his game.
KEANE V HARGREAVES: That’s like sticking Muhammad Ali in the ring with Amir Khan! Roy never gave the ball away and inspired the players whereas the jury on Hargreaves is still out. Personally, I don’t think he’s got Keano’s range of passing or composure on the ball.
SCHOLES V SCHOLES: He’s looked after himself impeccably and, injuries permitting will still be able to do a job for United in three or four years’ time.
GIGGS V GIGGS: Ryan in his prime was so much about pace that now he’s lost a bit I don’t think he’s quite the same player. That said, he’s still a right handful and as hard working as anyone on the team.
COLE V TEVEZ: He won’t get the goals that Cole got, but technique-wise the Argentine is streets ahead and able to play in several different positions. He can move to the wing, come inside, drop into midfield and probably hold his own in goal!
YORKE V ROONEY: Another no contest, which is down to Rooney’s abilities rather than Yorke’s shortcomings. I’m not claiming the credit, but during the summer I met Wayne round the poolside in Las Vegas and he said to me, “I read that piece you wrote about me needing to score more goals – and you’re right, that’s part of my game I'm still working on.” The work’s obviously paid off because he’s been absolutely deadly in the penalty-box this season.
WES BROWN, NICKY BUTT, JESPER BLOMQUIST, TEDDY SHERRINGHAM & OLE GUNNAR SOLKSJAER V WES BROWN, MICHAEL CARRICK, DARREN FLATCHER, NANI & LUIS SAHA: The 1999 bench was good, but this one’s even better.