13/06/2014 08:47,
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World Cup Reds head-to-head

There have been very few occasions where Manchester United players have met on the field in the World Cup finals but Spain's clash with Holland on Friday throws up that possibility again.

Juan Mata is perhaps likelier than David De Gea to feature for Spain against Robin van Persie's Netherlands in Group B, while France's Group E game against Ecuador presents another opportunity for direct Reds combat on 25 June. Remarkably, though, Old Trafford stars have actually only been in direct opposition in four games during the entire history of the biggest tournament on the planet.

The first occurrence came in 1986, when wingers Gordon Strachan and Jesper Olsen (pictured) met as Denmark beat Scotland 1-0 in Estadio Neza. Strachan was substituted moments before another United colleague, John Sivebaek, was introduced for the Danes, with Olsen going off soon afterwards. Alex Ferguson was in charge of the Scots and saw Preben Elkjaer hit a 58th-minute winner.

In 2002, four Reds midfielders started the game in Sapporo as England defeated Argentina 1-0 in the group stages. David Beckham captained his country and slammed in the only goal from the penalty spot as he took on the South Americans alongside Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes. Juan Sebastian Veron was the rival skipper but was withdrawn at half-time after being superbly marshalled by Butt.

Four years later, three of the nations in Group C contained United players but there were no confrontations on the pitch, largely because of Nemanja Vidic's absence for Serbia and Montenegro. When Dutch duo Edwin van der Sar and Ruud van Nistelrooy took on Argentina, Gabriel Heinze was not involved.

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