Fergie at 70: Is this his perfect Manchester United team
Sir Alex Ferguson turns 70 this weekend, and once again his Manchester United team head into the new year challenging for trophies.
But what about his best ever United team Here, we select a side that really would take some stopping.
Great Dane: Peter Schmeichel dominated the No 1 shirt between 1991 and 1999
GOALKEEPER: Peter Schmeichel
Boils down to a choice between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar, with hardly anything between them. Schmeichel (five titles, one European Cup) gets the nod, but only because he came before Van der Sar (four titles, one European Cup) and broke the mould.
Fine servant: Gary Neville spent his entire 19-year career at Manchester United
RIGHT BACK: Gary Neville
Paul Parker was an essential component of Ferguson”s first title-winning team but Neville is the stand-out candidate. Loyal, brave – a bit of a pain sometimes. But committed and pretty good too. First-team career lasted 19 years and 602 appearances.
CENTRE-HALF: Jaap Stam
Ferguson has admitted to making one of his few mistakes in allowing Jaap Stam to leave in 2001. Only at United for three seasons but won the title in every one, in addition to the Champions League. Strong in the tackle and an excellent reader of the game. Few come close – but some do. Rio Ferdinand for a start.
Rock solid: Jaap Stam (left) and Nemanja Vidic have been key players at United
CENTRE-HALF: Nemanja Vidic
Nemanja Vidic holds the rare distinction of being confirmed a United player on Christmas Day. Struggled at first but has gone on to become one of the world”s best defenders. And he has ended that nightmare run against Fernando Torres as well. Has the strength to match any opponent and is proving an outstanding captain.
No lying down on the job: Patrice Evra edges out Dennis Irwin for best left-back
LEFT BACK: Patrice Evra
Few could quibble if this spot went to Denis Irwin, or even Phil Neville. Frenchman Patrice Evra is slightly better though, especially in an attacking sense.
Just champion: Cristiano Ronaldo established himself as one of the world”s greatest players while he was at Manchester United between 2003 and 2009
RIGHT WING: Cristiano Ronaldo
Now the arguments begin. David Beckham is an obvious choice here and his efforts deserve due mention. But someone who was crowned the world”s best player during his time at United – and is still rated in the top two – has to have a place. Cristiano Ronaldo”s trickery was not to everyone”s taste. Forty-two goals in a single season certainly was.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Roy Keane
The Irish colossus patrolled the United midfield as though it was his own personal fiefdom. His duels with Arsenal”s Patrick Vieira were the stuff of legend and his performance in the 1999 Champions League semi-final against Juventus in Turin, when he was already booked and out of the final, stands comparison with any.
Deadly duo: Paul Scholes (left) and Roy Keane teamed up to great effect
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Paul Scholes
Sometimes decisions are so tough, it is best to let others make them. Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Michael Carrick even. But when great players such as Xavi and Edgar Davids are asked to name the man who made United tick, Scholes is the name they always come up with. That will do for us.
Wing wizard: Ryan Giggs has been with Manchester United for over 20 years
LEFT WING: Ryan Giggs
Ferguson likened Ryan Giggs to “a piece of paper blowing in the wind” when he first saw him as a schoolboy. Nearly 900 appearances later, the Welshman is still going strong. Barring the first FA Cup and European Cup Winners” Cup triumph in 1991, Giggs has played a part in all Ferguson”s successes.
Full of goals: Wayne Rooney hasn”t stopped scoring since joining United in 2004
CENTRE FORWARD: Wayne Rooney
Arrived a teenage sensation, then condemned to live in Ronaldo”s shadow, Wayne Rooney is now starting to blossom. Carried United into their post-Ronaldo season, scoring 32 goals before injury intervened and personal problems came to light. Now back to his best and ready to assume the mantle of greatness for which he was destined.
Adored: Eric Cantona turned Manchester United into Premier League champions
CENTRE FORWARD: Eric Cantona
More than any single player, Eric Cantona transformed United from nearly-men to champions. Arrived with the swagger of a man destined to usurp Denis Law as the new king. Fifteen years after his departure, he is still adored, that infamous night at Crystal Palace merely enhancing his legend.