Dream United Team: France v the Netherlands
Outside of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, no nations have been better represented at Manchester United than France and the Netherlands.
Twelve French players and twelve Dutch players have played for the Reds over the years, with the two European nations providing some of Old Trafford's finest-ever names, particularly during the Premier League era.
With 24 players to choose from then, we thought we'd continue our Dream United Team feature with a France v Netherlands showdown.
Here are the two sides, as picked by our writers Paul Davies and Sam Carney...
United's French team, selected by Paul Davies
GK: Fabien Barthez
D: Laurent Blanc
D: Patrice Evra
M: Paul Pogba
M: Eric Cantona ©
F: Anthony Martial
United's Dutch team, selected by Sam Carney
G: Edwin van der Sar
D: Jaap Stam ©
M: Arnold Muhren
M: Daley Blind
F: Robin van Persie
F: Ruud van Nistelrooy
PRESENTING OUR FRANCE TEAM
Paul Davies, Editor of United Review
With a dozen players to choose from there was some serious competition for places in this United team of Frenchmen, which has a really strong look to it with three World Cup winners within the ranks.
And who to make captain? I’ve gone for Eric Cantona because of the way he inspired others simply by being who he was. In goal there was no other option than to select Fabien Barthez, although I reckon Patrice Evra would have done a decent enough makeshift job given his agility and willingness to give his all for the team.
But let’s not underestimate Barthez, who would be perfect for six-a-side football, being not only a wonderful shot-stopper but also an excellent starter of attacks. I’ve opted for a two-man defence with Laurent Blanc as the anchor and Evra buzzing around him to snuff out danger. Blanc was the master of anticipation, preferring to intercept rather than tackle, and was blessed with good technique. Evra would add drive and effervescence to any team, and in this six-a-side context would also provide a real attacking threat.
It’s in midfield and attack where this side comes into its own, however. Paul Pogba and Eric Cantona might not sound an ideal blend in that they’d both want to dominate possession, but imagine having the option of Pogba bursting through to shoot or Cantona threading passes for Anthony Martial to finish? Magnifique!
Louis Saha was very unlucky to miss out but Martial’s dribbling ability would be priceless in a game where 1v1 battles are so crucial. He’d be able to beat a man, twice over if necessary, before firing in shots from all angles. And if he were having an off day with his shooting then he could simply switch positions with Cantona and let the King work his magic.
PRESENTING OUR NETHERLANDS TEAM
Sam Carney, ManUtd.com journalist
The Dutch are known for their adherence to total football and fluidity in terms of positional interchange and, while you couldn’t imagine Jaap leading the line or Ruud marshalling the troops at the back, this side boasts its fair share of versatility.
Daley Blind could play alongside the irrepressible captain Stam at the back, or step into midfield to join the classy and underrated Arnold Muhren and help maintain possession – something that would be vital against this talented yet hot-headed French side. A flying wing-back for the Netherlands under Louis van Gaal, the current Ajax man could also offer some valuable width, if needed.
Flexibility in sixes is great, but you also need pure, unadulterated quality, and my two forwards offer that in abundance. Robin van Persie started out as a wide attacker at Feyenoord and that may be where he’d have to be stationed in my side. Able to come up with the spectacular, as well as the bread-and-butter, RVP would be a goal threat from all angles on a small-sided pitch.
And then there’s our other striker. Some cite the fact that Ruud van Nistelrooy only scored one goal from outside the 18-yard box for the Reds – but who really cares about that statistic when you've smashed home 149 more from close range? I reckon that with the solid, complementary triangle of Stam-Blind-Muhren behind him, and Robin riotously rampaging through whatever the opposition backline has to muster in terms of resistance, Ruud would be breaking all kinds of goalscoring records in this side.
We haven’t even mentioned the man between the sticks yet. Edwin van der Sar is the most capped goalkeeper in Netherlands history, so who better to man the barricades in this Dutch dream team? Edwin helped pioneer the use of a ‘sweeper-keeper’ as part of van Gaal’s all-conquering Ajax side of the mid-1990s, and if the French line-up somehow manage to get in behind big Jaap, he’d have no trouble keeping his cool and helping the lads recycle possession.
All in all, this is a van-tastic VI, filled to the brim with total footballers!
PROFILING THE FRANCE SQUAD
Fabien Barthez: Won 87 caps for France, winning the World Cup in 1998 (being awarded the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best goalkeeper) and European Championship in 2000. He played 139 games for the Reds between 2000-2004, winning two Premier League titles.
Laurent Blanc: ‘Le President’, as he was nicknamed at Marseille for his impressive leadership skills, was part of the same all-conquering France team as Barthez. He joined United in 2002 following the sudden departure of Jaap Stam, and played for the Reds for two seasons.
Patrice Evra: No Frenchman has played more times for the Reds than Patrice (379 games, 10 goals), who remains a hugely popular player with United fans. The brilliant left-back won 15 trophies across nine seasons, and picked up 81 caps for his country.
Paul Pogba: Another World Cup winner with France, in 2018, and the 10th Frenchman to represent the Reds. He’s made 150 appearance for United, winning the League Cup and Europa League (scoring in the final v Ajax) since arriving for a second spell in summer 2016.
Eric Cantona: One of the most popular players ever to represent the club, his signing from Leeds in 1992 proved the catalyst for the Reds reaching new heights. He won nine trophies in five seasons and is regarded as one of the finest players ever to represent the club.
Anthony Martial: The technically gifted winger-cum-striker has played over 200 games for the Reds since arriving from Monaco in 2015. The 24-year-old was in sparkling form prior to the suspension of the current campaign and has won 18 caps for his country to date.
United's French players Gallery
Twelve Frenchmen have played for the Reds, but who would make your six-a-side team?
PROFILING THE NETHERLANDS SQUAD
Edwin van der Sar: A Champions League winner 13 years apart with Ajax and United, Edwin was still at the pinnacle of European football when he retired in 2011, aged 40. Capped 130 times by his country, Edwin, who claimed four Premier League titles with the Reds, was selected for three World Cups and four European Championships.
Jaap Stam: A true man-mountain at the back, Stam was an immovable force in United's 1999 Treble win and claimed two more titles in 2000 and 2001 before shockingly departing for Lazio at the beginning of the 2001/02 season. A relatively late starter at international level, Jaap appeared 67 times for the Netherlands between 1996 and 2004.
Arnold Muhren: Muhren won silverware with Ipswich Town and United and his remarkable longevity ensured he was the only player from Rinus Michels' legendary Ajax side of the '70s to play a part in the great coach's Euro 1988 success with his country – still the only major international title the Netherlands have lifted.
Daley Blind: The son of the great Ajax captain Danny, Daley caught the eye playing as a wing-back for the Netherlands under Louis van Gaal, as the Dutch finished third at the 2014 World Cup. Signed by United shortly afterwards, Blind was a key member of the sides which experienced Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup success, often playing as a ball-playing centre-back but also able to step into midfield and play out wide.
Robin van Persie: So long a thorn in Sir Alex Ferguson's side with Arsenal, the 29-year-old shocked English football when he made the decision to
“listen to the little boy inside of me” and make the move to Old Trafford in 2012. One electric year and 30 goals later, Reds were celebrating a 20th league title thanks to RVP's gargantuan impact. A United player until 2015, Robin is the Netherlands' all-time leading scorer and played in the 2010 World Cup final defeat to Spain.
Ruud van Nistelrooy: One of the most prolific forwards Old Trafford has ever seen, Ruud pounced 150 times in just 219 games for United between 2001 and 2006, helping the Reds to Premier League success in 2003. He appeared 70 times for his country between 1998 and 2011, scoring 35 goals – including efforts at the 2006 World Cup and the 2004 and 2008 Euros.
United's Dutch connections Gallery
Can you name all 12 players from the Netherlands who have represented the Reds?