Six-a-side dream teams: Euros or World Cup winners?
Last week, we launched our United Dream Team feature with the ultimate question: who would win a six-a-side battle between our 1999 and 2008 Champions League winners?
While that debate centred around two of the club’s finest moments, there’s an international flavour to this week’s head-to-head.
Old Trafford has been the destination for some of world and European football’s finest names over the years, while we’ve raised a few all-time greats ourselves.
With plenty of choice when it comes to global and continental champions, we’ve chosen six-a-side teams consisting of World Cup winners and European Championship gold medallists.
But who do you think would come out on top?
World Cup winners, as selected by Joe Ganley:
G: Fabien Barthez
D: Nobby Stiles
D: Gerard Pique
M: Bastian Schweinsteiger
M: Paul Pogba
F: Bobby Charlton ©
European Championship winners, as selected by Paul Davies:
G: Peter Schmeichel
D: Laurent Blanc
M: Arnold Muhren
RF: Juan Mata
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo ©
Here’s why Joe went for the team he did:
“None of the 10 United players to win a World Cup were thoroughbred strikers, so picking a quality six-a-side team is an intriguing challenge.
“But while there's plenty that differentiates the small-sided format from its older brother, the 11-a-side, there's much, much more that unites them. So there's no need to hastily pack this sextet with a cast of dribbling wizards. We need organisation, graft and multi-dimensional talent – and this team has it in abundance.
“Fabien Barthez starts us off in goal, which means we can play right out from the back. And if anyone gets injured, the fleet-footed Frenchman is sure to fancy a freewheeling spell up front if we’re searching for a late winner.
“In defence, Nobby Stiles brings some much-needed Mancunian grit to proceedings. And with refereeing infamously laissez-faire in six-a-side, the opposition definitely won't be taking the mick with this Collyhurst lad doling out justice where necessary. Stiles would have to employ his moulds or firm-ground studs here, so he'd have to get creative – but joking aside, Nobby was an underrated player and far better with the ball than he’s often given credit for. He also boasts a United goal ratio that bears comparison with someone like Michael Carrick, but his job here is to organise and stifle the opposition’s main threats.
“Alongside Nobby is Gerard Pique. Notionally a defender, he’s as comfortable on the ball as most midfielders, and handy around the opposition area too (as Real Madrid fans will tell you). With Stiles his reliable partner-in-crime, Gerard is free to create and wander, joining the attack whenever possible. In six-a-side, using an extra player to create an unexpected overload up top can be a vital weapon, so Gerard could be our surprise package.
“In midfield, we've got the Deutscher Fussballmeister, Bastian Schweinsteiger. With the captain of Die Mannschaft's 2014 success at the heart of things, this team is unlikely to ever lose the ball. His strength and positional nous mean he can drop back to fill in for Pique if needed, and his inch-perfect passing makes life easy for everyone else. Bastian can slow the game down or speed it up at will – a deadly asset in sixes.
“Further forward, we've a duo that can do immense damage. No goal-hanging here; this pair can do the lot. Paul Pogba's long legs can eat up ground and retrieve the ball with ease, while his famously creative imagination and dextrous feet can create chances and goals from the most impossible of angles. He’ll also drag multiple opponents towards him because he’s so hard to push off the ball – and that opens up important space elsewhere on the small pitch.
“Leading the line is the mighty Bobby Charlton. We might not have an out-and-out striker, but with a man who was United and England’s record goalscorer for over 40 years, I think we’ll muddle through. Charlton can beat a man on either side with that famous drop of the shoulder, find his team-mates from anywhere, and score with either foot – from any distance. He delivered thunderbolts from miles out in the 50s and 60s, when balls were like anvils, so a tiddly 4G pitch isn’t going to be a problem. He'd be able to find the top corner from the adjacent Portakabins, never mind the edge of our 'D'.
“Organised and strong, with playmakers and creativity everywhere – plus the shooting ability of Charlton, Pogba and Schweinsteiger – this is a side that will be hard to beat, and even harder to stop from finding the net.”
1. Fabien Barthez
The eccentric Frenchman spent three seasons at United between 2000 and 2003, and was a big part of France’s 1998 World Cup success, and their 2000 European Championship win.
2. Nobby Stiles
A United hero, Nobby made 395 appearances and scored 19 times for his boyhood club between 1960 and 1971. He’s one of just two Englishmen to win both the European Cup and World Cup.
3. Gerard Pique
The Academy graduate left United in 2008 to rejoin boyhood club FC Barcelona after just 23 appearances. He went on to win the lot with Barca and Spain.
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger
The Bayern Munich legend joined United in 2015, a year after triumphing in Brazil with Germany. Though an immediate fan favourite, he left for the MLS less than two years later.
5. Paul Pogba
The Academy star rejoined United from Juventus in 2016, and remains the club’s record signing. Scored in France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final.
6. Sir Bobby Charlton
World Cup winner, European Cup winner, and Ballon d’Or recipient, Charlton was his club and country’s record goalscorer for decades, until Wayne Rooney topped both achievements in the 2010s. He retired in 1973 after 758 United appearances and 249 goals.
Now Paul explains the thinking behind his Euros selection:
“Only ten United players have won the European Championships, eight of them before or after leaving the Reds, but I’ve still been able to select a formidable looking six. Of course, when one of your half dozen is a certain Cristiano Ronaldo you’ve always got a chance.
“Peter Schmeichel is one of only two United players to have won the Euros while at Old Trafford, the other being Fabien Barthez (winner with France in 2000), and I’ve plumped for the Dane in net due to the fact he would pretty much fill a six-a-side goal. Plus, I’d be a little worried that Barthez would venture off up field halfway through the game and leave his goal unguarded!
“In defence I’ve gone for the master of reading the game and timing tackles, Laurent Blanc. The Frenchman, always with socks around his ankles, was not the quickest in his two seasons with United but his uncanny ability to be in the right place was undiminished. He could also pass out from the back, giving this team a solid base from which to spring forward.
“In front of him is Arnold Muhren – a truly majestic footballer. His wand of a left foot could open up any defence, no matter how tight the pitch, and he was able throughout his impressive career to recycle play almost infinitum. He’d just keep giving the ball to the front three and watch them work their magic.
“The key to breaking down teams in small-sided games is quick exchanges of passing and the ability to beat a man one v one. Up front this side has those abilities in abundance. Juan Mata is the master of the quick one-two, Nani can beat a man and fire off rockets, while the power, pace and finishing of Ronaldo is almost unsurpassed in the history of the game.
“John Sivebaek (a winner with Denmark in 1992), Gerard Pique and Victor Valdes (both with Spain in 2012) complete the 10 winners of the Euros to have represented the Reds, but they miss out on this side due to the better blend of the six selected. Are United’s dream team of European Championship winners good enough to topple the Reds’ World Cup winners? Yes, for me, because Ronaldo gives this side the edge.”
1. Peter Schmeichel
Won the lot during his eight seasons with United and was goalkeeper of the tournament when Denmark were late entrants to, and then surprise winners of, the Euros in Sweden in 1992.
2. Laurent Blanc
Joined United far later in his career than Sir Alex Ferguson would have liked but still helped the Reds to the title in 2003, three years after winning the Euros with France in Belgium and Holland.
3. Arnold Muhren
Won the FA Cup with the Reds in 1983 and was back at Ajax by the time he won the Euros with the formidable Netherlands side in 1988, aged 37.
4. Juan Mata
Came off the bench to score in the 2012 Euros final against Italy while at Chelsea, and remains a creative hub for the Reds whenever called upon by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The livewire winger was at Fenerbahce when he won the Euros with Portugal in 2016, but few at Old Trafford will forget his contribution over eight seasons.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
No introduction needed; he’s quite simply one of the greatest to play the game. Like Nani, he became a European champion with Portugal four years ago.
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