Park Ji-Sung

A United XI from around the world

Wednesday 10 November 2021 12:45

A recent Academy project at Manchester United saw the club's Under-15s and Under-16s sides select a 'heritage XI'.

As part of a wider diversity workshop, the exercise was to help the players understand the backgrounds of the many great players who have represented United.

The rules were as follows:

  • Only one player can be chosen from each country
  • At least one player must be chosen from each continent

After we played our Nationalities Quiz, released on Wednesday and available to play (in our Official App only) below, we had a go ourselves at creating a team following the above rules. And here it is...

MARK BOSNICH (Australia, Oceanic)

Bosnich moved from Australia to join United as a 17-year-old but left after three first-team games to return home and play in Sydney. Aston Villa brought him back to England and he proved to be one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers of the 1990s. When Schmeichel left at the end of the decade, Bosnich was an obvious replacement. It didn't work out perfectly, but the Aussie added to his three games from the early '90s with another 35 appearances in all competitions as United won the Premier League title. He also helped the club to Intercontinental Cup glory by keeping a clean sheet against Palmeiras in Tokyo, in 1999. He left for Chelsea in 2001.

RAFAEL (Brazil, South America)

Tenacious, combative and always up for big games, the Brazilian full-back was the favourite of many a United fan during his time at the club. Screamers, followed by passionate celebrations, against QPR and Liverpool helped, and so does his continued love for the club since his departure.

NEMANJA VIDIC (Serbia, Europe)

He'd fly into tackles with his foot or his head, or whatever other part of his body he thought could help him win the ball. He loved winning the ball, those blue eyes narrowing, honing in on the target and pouncing. As former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor once said:

"Vidic was the tough man, like running into a rock. He could block a striker with a single finger. He walks on you, he says sorry; he kicks you, he says sorry. He shouts at you and makes a little bit of spit come out. This guy was ready to kill."

He mastered the art of defending and after he'd dragged his opponent all afternoon, his pleasant, humble character could come out off the pitch. And don't forget the swinging arms, pounding knees celebration after his last minute winner against Sunderland. The perfect United player.

JAAP STAM (Netherlands, Europe)

The final piece of Sir Alex Ferguson's Treble jigsaw, Stam could have defended a goal by himself if it really came down to it. Signed for £10.5 million from PSV Eindhoven, in a transfer announced during the 1998 World Cup, Stam proved to be a truly world-class defender. The fee was significant and Stam's first performances didn't show off his true quality.

Once adjusted to English football, he excelled, especially in the UEFA Champions League. It was in that competition where arguably his best moment came, a crucial goalline clearance in Turin to stop Filippo Inzaghi putting Juventus 3-1 up. That intervention helped United come from behind to reach the final. Stam was the only player to play every single minute of that European campaign, a testament to his quality and consistency.

DENIS IRWIN (Republic of Ireland, Europe)

Perhaps the most consistent United player in the club's history, Irwin is probably also the best full-back the Premier League has seen. A natural right-footed player at left-back, he evoked a sense of utter calm and composition. Signed from Oldham aged 24, Irwin played at Old Trafford for 12 years. He ranks ninth on our all-time appearance chart. A fantastic free-kick taker, too, Irwin scored 33 goals for the club in 529 games. He was the longest-serving member of the United team that lifted three trophies in 1999, his experience of winning two Doubles before, among many other trophies, making him a crucial influence in the dressing room. Born in Cork, like Noel Cantwell and Roy Keane, Irwin is a proud and excellent representative of Ireland in this team.

Sir Alex Ferguson sums it up perfectly: "People ask me: ‘Who is your best Man United team?’. It is absolutely impossible. You look at the players I had. How do you pick out of that? But honestly, I would say Denis Irwin would be the one certainty to get in the team. I called him an eight out of 10."

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QUINTON FORTUNE (South Africa, Africa)

Fortune joined from Atletico Madrid in August 1999 and, when he made his debut in a 5-1 win against Newcastle United later that month, he became the first African player to represent the Reds. Utilised at full-back and in midfield, Fortune proved a useful squad member during a seven-year spell at the club, marked by three Premier League titles. He represented South Africa at two World Cups in 1998 and 2002 and paved the way for future stars from the continent such as Eric Djemba-Djemba, Manucho, Mame Biram Diouf, Wilfried Zaha, Eric Bailly and Amad.

PARK JI-SUNG (South Korea, Asia)

The model selfless player, Ji-sung Park is adored at United, by former players and staff as much as fans. His work rate was relentless and his quality matched it. He scored brilliant goals against several key rivals and he has a string of iconic performances, whether that be away at the Emirates in the Champions League semi-final or marking Pirlo against AC Milan. A big-game player, the ideal team-mate, and another who led the way for a whole continent by starring for United and lifting trophies galore.


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BRYAN ROBSON (England, Europe)

Choosing England's one representative in this team is difficult, but few could argue with Bryan Robson. A relentlessly determined footballer with a thunderous strike, an eye for a pass, timing in the tackle and a brilliant knack for arriving into the box at the right time. For all of that, it's Robson's leadership qualities which have left their mark on the club. He protected teammates and played in a way where fans thought, 'that's us'.

GEORGE BEST (Northern Ireland, Europe)

The most talented player in the side, George Best had his own gravitational pull. He dragged defenders close before chucking them aside with a feint of the body or a wonderful control of the ball. Off the pitch, he seduced the world. Northern Ireland's most famous son, and an absolute cert for this team.

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ERIC CANTONA (France, Europe)

Arrogant but charmingly so, unless he was unleashing a violent volley past your team's goalkeeper, Cantona knew he was good, played like it, spoke like it and made those around him step up, or leave. Manchester was his city, following his every move and adoring him for that. He brought glory and heartache, teamwork and individual brilliance and he embodied difference. He did nothing by the book, and it was immense.

“If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: ‘I’m Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?'” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

DWIGHT YORKE (Trinidad and Tobago, North America)

Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were all at Manchester United before Dwight Yorke arrived in 1998. Alex Ferguson had a brilliant array for forwards available, but he wanted something different, and Yorkey was just that. It took a long saga to finally bring him to the club, with Aston Villa insistent he wouldn't be sold, but eventually the deal was wrapped up. He played with a smile on his face, with a calmness and flair to his game, and he scored goals, a load of them, 29 in his first season. He was capped 72 times by the Trinidad and Tobago national team in a 20-year international career in which he captained his country at the 2006 World Cup.