Six-a-side battle: England v Rest of the World
England versus Rest of the World has long been a popular fixture in Manchester United training sessions for many years, which makes it a perfect theme for our next Dream United Team battle.
Are you ready? Let’s start with the squads…
United’s England team, selected by Adam Marshall
GK: Wayne Rooney
D: Paul Parker
M: Duncan Edwards
M: Bryan Robson (C)
M: Paul Scholes
F: Andy Cole
United’s Rest of the World team, selected by Ian McLeish
GK: Peter Schmeichel
D: Roy Keane
M: Eric Cantona (C)
AM: Cristiano Ronaldo
F: George Best
F: Denis Law
PRESENTING OUR ENGLAND TEAM
Adam Marshall, Contributing Editor
I’ve tried to have a real think here about which players would be best suited to the six-a-side game. These aren’t necessarily our best Englishmen over the years, there’s no Sir Bobby Charlton, but rather a team that I think would be well versed in small-sided football and very hard to beat!
It might seem crazy but I’m sticking England’s all-time leading scorer in goal. ‘Wazza’ always liked to don the gloves in training and thought he was pretty decent between the sticks, so he would have the responsibility of being all action from right at the back. He could also switch infield at a moment’s notice, as is the norm in such matches.
I’ve only opted for one defender and plumped for Parker ahead of Rio Ferdinand, who was also in my thoughts. The former QPR man was just an excellent all-round defender, who could mark tightly, and was also capable of passing accurately to his more advanced team-mates. He was also quick and capable of plugging gaps wherever they arose.
There is no way anybody is getting past my midfield, in any case. It is fortified by the pairing of Edwards and Robson, who would be expected to cover every inch of the pitch. Both were all-action performers who had that winning mentality, which would demand the best of their colleagues. While Edwards would be a little deeper, the pair should defend and attack in equal measure and would throw themselves into the tackles. Robbo would be my captain and I suspect he would refuse to accept defeat, no matter what the circumstances.
That leaves room for a striker and I want a dead-eyed finisher, one of those who would just fire the ball home from all angles, particularly if we were playing indoors and the ball was rebounding off the walls. Cole gets the nod because he’s one of the best goal-getters the Premier League has ever witnessed and was often under-appreciated when smashing them in with great regularity. He improved his game no end at Old Trafford to become a master marksman and he would have a field day putting the finishing touch to all the hard graft contributed by his team-mates.
I ended up having a squad to choose from, based entirely on what they could contribute to a six-a-side match, and there were some leftfield options who were in my thinking. Among others, Owen Hargreaves, Ravel Morrison, Angel Gomes, Jesse Lingard, Peter Beardsley and Mark Robins were all considered, so maybe these guys could be waiting in the wings for any rolling substitutions.
PRESENTING OUR REST OF THE WORLD TEAM
Ian McLeish, Editor-In-Chief
This six-a-side team made up of players with nationalities other than English can be summed up in three words… attack, attack, attack! It feels a bit remiss not to include some of the legendary defenders who have hailed from overseas and across the British Isles, players like Stam, Vidic and Buchan, but when faced with the opportunity to combine the legendary no.7s Best, Cantona and Ronaldo, difficult decisions have to be taken. And with the fearsome pairing of Peter Schmeichel and Roy Keane guarding the net, who’s worried?
Big Schmikes would be the ultimate six-a-side sweeper keeper – that huge frame would make the goal seem minuscule, and his abilities in one-on-one situations would be a challenge for even the greatest strikers. Keano would be the perfect foil in front of his old no.1, primed and ready to mop up any attack while redeploying his old box-to-box sensibilities to charge forward when the opportunity arose.
It surely is every Reds’ fantasy to imagine a situation where Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and George Best were somehow team-mates and sharing the same pitch, so please indulge me for the purposes of this scenario. Creativity, power, speed, craft and ingenuity in abundance. The small-sided game requires an instinctive approach and an ability to conjure moments out of nothing, and in this combination of French, Portuguese and Ulsterman, it is there in abundance. They were players who could combine with team-mates with devastating effect, or go it alone when the situation required – perfect for 6v6.
And up front, Denis Law – one of United’s greatest-ever goalscorers and a legendary predator who could smash home every type of goal conceivable. It is admirably attack-minded for my opposite number to choose Wayne Rooney as a sweeper-keeper in nets for the England selection, but I think the goalkeeping novice would have rather a busy baptism of fire when faced with this front four.
The only conceivable way this team could lose – in my opinion – is if the action got a bit heated because let’s be honest, there are some players in this team who had a reputation for being slightly on the hot-headed side. In their United careers, this six shared a mighty 25 red cards between them, so who knows whether they’d all escape the sin bin?
Wayne Rooney: He played up front and in midfield with distinction for United, but loves the game so much he was always throwing himself around in goal during training. Our all-time leading scorer may not be hitting the net from back there but he could still show off his wide range of passing.
Paul Parker: The tigerish tackler was signed to provide options across the defence as Alex Ferguson built a formidable team. An England international who reached the semi-finals of Italia 90 and set up Gary Lineker’s goal against West Germany, he excelled in our first Premier League-winning team.
Duncan Edwards: His tragic death in the Munich Air Disaster robbed the game of one its most promising talents. Once England’s youngest-ever international, he was a colossus who dominated matches and could operate in any position. Sir Bobby Charlton was in awe of his talents.
Bryan Robson: The driving force of the team in the 1980s and early 1990s, the British-record buy from West Brom provided outstanding value for the £1.5million fee. One of the greatest players of his generation, he was also among the toughest and had tremendous character. A born leader!
Paul Scholes: Such a wonderful passer who could dictate the pace and exert his huge influence over any game. A striker in his youth, he possessed an eye for goal and had the knack of arriving in the box at the right time. The only Class of ’92 graduate in this team, which speaks volumes of his ability.
Andy Cole: From an early loan spell from Arsenal at Bristol City, it became clear he was a natural finisher and this was rubber-stamped when he joined Newcastle. One of the most stunning moves ever took him to Old Trafford and he did not disappoint, helping fire the Reds to the Treble in 1999.
PROFILING OUR REST OF THE WORLD TEAM
Peter Schmeichel: The Great Dane was an intimidating presence on the pitch – for opponents and team-mates alike – and a leader throughout his career. Twice voted the best goalkeeper in the world, he was also a rare threat in front of goal too, scoring 10 goals during his forays up front in his overall career.
Roy Keane: A force of nature for MUFC, Keano won 17 major trophies throughout a mighty career with the Reds. One of the most competitive footballers you could imagine, he was the ultimate winner. And he would particularly relish a set-to with the English!
Eric Cantona: The mercurial genius had a transformative effect on Manchester United, described by Sir Alex Ferguson as the missing piece of the puzzle when he arrived in late 1992. Was born for the iconic red no.7 jersey and retains a love for the club to this day, 23 years after he left.
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese sensation dribbled his way into folklore upon his arrival in 2003, and shrugged off the ‘show-pony’ tag by evolving into the complete forward. Disappointing figures though… five Ballon d’Or awards, five Champions Leagues and 725 career goals. Must try harder.
George Best: Completing our triumvirate of no.7s is arguably the most talented footballer ever to emerge from the British Isles.
“I think I’ve found you a genius” was the message to Sir Matt Busby from the scout who discovered him at the age of 15, and the Northern Irishman went on to become one of the greatest, reaching the pinnacle with the European Cup final victory in 1968.
Denis Law: The favourite United player for many Reds of a certain vintage, only Sir Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney scored more goals. A proud Scotsman, the Lawman played and scored for the Rest of the World against England in a special match for the FA’s centenary in 1963, and also netted in Scotland’s legendary 3-2 win over England at Wembley in 1967.
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