Ji-sung Park and Michael Carrick.

Fans and ex-players join unsung Reds debate

We started a debate around Manchester United's most unsung players and have been overwhelmed by the response as fans got in touch via our social media channels to express their opinions.

It has enabled us to come up with an XI from the selections and also shine a light on those who enjoyed the most attention across the board, as we also obtained the views of the former players who took part in Thursday's MUTV Group Chat.

As an added bonus, Juan Mata offered his choice - and went for former colleague Michael Carrick, without hesitation!

Video
Dion Dublin and Danny Webber.
Watch the ex-players forward their nominations during our Group Chat discussion.

Carrick certainly featured prominently among the many responses on Twitter and Facebook from our loyal supporters, one of them, @DonStuarte, commenting: “Easily Carrick. First XI player for 10 years. Won every single proper trophy possible. Doesn't get anywhere near anyone's best XI. Definition of unsung.”

The majority choice from our panel of former Reds, however, was Denis Irwin. Ben Thornley said: “Mr Dependable - he was a seven or eight out of 10 every game, could play right-back or left-back, hardly missed games due to injury, took penalties and free-kicks, and never did I see anybody really get the better of him.” David May agreed, stating: “He was just so consistent. He was brilliant to play with and what a professional as well.”

Dion Dublin also opted for the Irishman, but gave a shout for Jonny Evans as well, claiming the Leicester City man is a class act due to his intelligence and positioning.

Despite Dion's Evans nomination and Steve Bruce's claims, they just miss out on a spot in our side. Graham Adam England on Facebook explained how ex-skipper Bruce was a “true leader but he was never capped by England.” Instead, we've chosen Treble-winner Ronny Johnsen. @ShaunSlater84 spoke about how Ronny “oozed class”, while @WozHey99 said: “Just an immaculate European Cup-winning defender who was excellent in midfield against Porto [in the 1996-97 Champions League quarter-final] and never let the club down.”

One of the most popular responses was clearly Ji-sung Park, who also earned a recommendation from Wes Brown, as well as The Sun's United correspondent Neil Custis, who said it was the South Korean “without a doubt.” Former team-mate Wes told us: “Honestly, every game the gaffer put him in, he would fly around and do his best and never play poorly. Whenever he came in, anything the gaffer asked him to do, he did it. He never stopped running as well so it's Ji, 100 per cent for me.”

Seb Cole paid this tribute on Facebook: “He was always willing to sacrifice himself for the cause. If he had been a bit more selfish, he would have been an absolute superstar. Completely dedicated. Truly the best player never remembered.” Kris Padbury concurred, posting: “He would cover every blade of grass; provide cover for the defence, join in the attack, man-mark whoever. Just you name it, Park is there!”

Another selfless performer, Darren Fletcher, had his backers in this argument. One of those was Danny Webber, who told us: “I don't think he got the credit he deserved due to Scholesy and so on being around him. He took a bit of stick when he first came in but rode it out and earned his way in. He became Scotland captain and has got a wealth of experience. I know people at the clubs he went to as well and they said how good he was so it's Fletch for me.

Supporter Yameen Ebrahim added on the Scot: “He was our rock in the midfield until he got sick. He was playing the best football of his career during that season.”

Denis Irwin.
Denis Irwin was never under appreciated by his team-mates.

Another popular candidate was Rafael, with the Brazilian still clearly loved by a large section of the club's following. A flood of responses on Twitter backed him in this debate, including @Alpha_Kunzite who said: “Rafael is under-rated. He can score, he can overlap, he can dribble, he can defend and is fast to help the counter-attack.” Debanjan Dutta on Facebook added: “He should have been still playing with us if Sir Alex was around.”

So it is impossible to ignore the South American when it comes to finalising our defence and John O'Shea gets the last spot. A man Sir Alex himself described as “under-rated” when the Republic of Ireland stalwart left for Sunderland, picked up plenty of support. Joe Castro posted this accolade: “I’ve always had a soft spot for my boy John O’Shea, I don’t have many United shirts but one of them is the black #22 with the square neckline! He was that utility guy who played with so much heart, in defence, midfield, even in goal! Plus he scored that winner at Anfield!”

Nicky Butt's name was thrown into the argument but we have opted for a flair player to complete the midfield with Andrei Kanchelskis just edging out Antonio Valencia and Nani, who are still popular with the Reds faithful. The Ukrainian winger had a devastating turn of speed and is still remembered fondly. “Been watching some old games,” said @Howard1963OT. “And OMG what a player Kanchelskis was!” Sean Bridle enthused: “He was as fast as lightning, read the game brilliantly, was dangerous with a good cross. He had a thunderous right boot and he was brave enough to fancy himself to get past anyone and everyone. As a kid, he was the player that always excited me most, at the time. Also, he banged in three against City!”

Javier Hernandez.
Chicharito leads the line in our XI of unsung Reds.

A goalkeeper and strikers were harder to come by in the flood of responses.

Although there were some mentions for Sergio Romero, the fact we are concentrating on former players means Raimond van der Gouw gets our no.1 jersey. The Dutchman was an able deputy for Peter Schmeichel, who never let the Reds down in some big games, with Brad_MUFC one of those to champion his claims and another, Ricky Kistenmacher, saying: “Van der Gouw was probably better than he seemed, living in Schmeichel's shadow.”

Up front, there were a variety of options and Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha were unlucky to miss out after nominations. However, we opted for Javier Hernandez, due to sheer weight of responses, and Brian McClair, who was a prolific forward before reverting to midfield later in his career.

Ben Palmer suggested Chicharito for his “ability to pop up and win games with his positioning and work-rate and @CH14_ was also an admirer, claiming: “He deserved so much more but always got benched. The fact is that he always scored whenever he came on as sub for someone.”

“I'd have to say Brian McClair needs a mention, especially for his latter years at the club,” suggested @redsmity81, and @Ulale_Mufc said: “McClair must be up there.” 

So a big thank-you to everyone who got involved in the discussion.

It was a difficult question so it was great to hear the varying views on the subject. We think this team would be very hard to beat!

Under-rated XI: Van der Gouw; Rafael, Johnsen, O'Shea, Irwin; Kanchelskis, Carrick, Fletcher, Park; McClair, Hernandez.

Vote on who is the most under-rated Red in the poll based on our shortlist of six on the Official App. Download the Official App here.

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