Who makes United's ultimate tournament XI?
Throughout the years, some of the most decorated stars have turned out in red and white. But what about the United players who have transferred their performances onto the international stage?
With the next instalment of UEFA’s European Championship set to kick off on Friday evening (11 June), we’ve decided to conjure up an XI of United players who have shone when it mattered while representing their country…
GOALKEEPER: PETER SCHMEICHEL (EURO 1992)
The Danes exceeded all expectations by winning the tournament back in 1992, but it was in thanks to a superb showing throughout from the United shot-stopper. Making a string of invaluable saves to firstly hold England to 0-0 draw in their opening fixture, to brilliantly denying both Eric Cantona and Jean Pierre-Papin in a 2-1 win that saw the Danes reach the semi-finals. Yet somehow the best was still to come for the former Brondby man: Schmeichel stopped Marco van Basten’s decisive penalty in a semi-final shootout with Holland, to ensure it would be his side that later went on to lift the trophy for the first time.
Do you agree with our Schmeichel saves countdown?
It’s Peter Schmeichel’s birthday, so we’ve compiled 10 of the finest stops the Great Dane pulled off in a United shirt…
RIGHT-BACK: GARY NEVILLE (EURO 1996)
At his first major tournament as a 19-year-old, a then baby-faced Gary Neville was superb in England’s eventual charge to the semi-finals where they were eliminated on penalties by winners Germany. Neville missed that game due to the accumulation of two yellow cards in two separate games, but the United Academy graduate played in each game up until his suspension. Bury-born Neville was excellent throughout with a string of stellar performances in wins against Scotland and the Netherlands, and went on to cement his spot as the Three Lions' first-choice right-back for 10 years after a brilliant tournament.
CENTRE-BACK: JAAP STAM (EURO 2000)
Reaching the semi-finals for the second successive European Championship with the Netherlands, Stam was an integral part of the Dutch’s defensive wall up until their exit at Euro 2000 – even famously receiving stitches on the sidelines during his side's opener with Czech Republic after a nasty collision with striker Jan Koller. The former United no.6, alongside partner Frank do Boer, was instrumental in de Oranje’s stunning 3-2 win over eventual winners France in which his side twice came from behind. The Dutch were eliminated by Italy on penalties in the semi-finals in which Stam missed his side's second penalty kick. It was later revealed that he was not scheduled to take part in the shootout and only did so due to the injuries and fatigue of his team-mates.
CENTRE-BACK: VICTOR LINDELOF (WORLD CUP 2018)
Partnering the experienced Andreas Granqvist at the 2018 Russia World Cup, Victor Lindelof started to show some of the defensive qualities that warranted him a move to Old Trafford just a year before. After missing his side's first Group F match with South Korea, Lindelof returned to ensure back-to-back clean sheets for his country and oversee Sweden’s progression to the knockout stages. Eventually beaten by England in the quarter-finals. it was to be a breakthrough tournament for the United centre-back.
LEFT-BACK: DENIS IRWIN (WORLD CUP 1994)
Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side were one of the surprise packages at World Cup 1994, with a young Denis Irwin contributing to one of his nation's all-time great footballing moments. Famously beating Italy 1-0 thanks to Ray Houghton’s looping effort, the Irish exited at the Round of 16 but could hold their heads high after their success against one of Italy’s best ever footballing sides. As for Irwin, his side's resolute defending in the famous win will live long in the memory, in what was only Ireland's second appearance at a World Cup.
MIDFIELD: NOBBY STILES (WORLD CUP 1966)
A midfield maestro and World Cup winner in his own right, no best tournament XI could not include Collyhurst-born Nobby Stiles. Playing every minute in England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, Stiles was a superb defensive midfielder often praised for his imperious man-marking and tough-tackling nature. Later awarded an MBE in 2000 after sections of the media raised the fact that five of the famous ’66 squad had not been decorated for their successes, Stiles is one of only two Englishmen to win both a European Cup and the World Cup.
MIDFIELD: BOBBY CHARLTON (WORLD CUP 1996)
A World Cup and a Ballon d’Or in both the same year? Not bad for a United youth product. Charlton is an easy addition to his XI due to his heroics in 1966. Netting twice in the semi-final against Portugal and scoring England’s first goal of the tournament against Mexico, Charlton’s name will forever be earmarked as one of England’s greatest footballing talents. A survivor of the tragic Munich Air Disaster at the age of just 20, his recovery from such an ordeal to reach the very top of the game is a testament to the man.
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