Which six-a-side team is better: 1999 or 2008?
Over the last few weeks, there have been loads of fascinating discussions prompted by various Reds selecting their dream teams from United’s history, across a variety of formats.
First, Marcus Rashford named his ultimate six-a-side team, then Marcus and Paul Scholes picked five-a-side teams chosen from each other’s colleagues for an episode of the UTD Podcast, and, this week, Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay chose a brilliant XI of graduates from United’s Academy.
So, today, we’re launching our own Dream United Team campaign to keep the debate going.
We’ll be asking players, legends and fans to select their ultimate six-a-side teams consisting of any United player past and present. And as well as that, we’ll be creating some virtual head-to-head battles based on players from different eras, nationalities and categories. A pair of writers will argue why their selection would win out if those teams faced off in a small-sided game, and you can vote for who you think would win that match.
To kick it off, a six-a-side team made up of the 1999 Treble winners take on a side selected from the 2008 Premier League and Champions League winners. Who would come out on top?!
1999, as selected by Steve Bartram:
G: Peter Schmeichel
D: Jaap Stam
M: Roy Keane ©
M: Paul Scholes
F: Dwight Yorke
F: Andrew Cole
2008, as selected by Charlie Ghagan:
G: Edwin van der Sar
D: Nemanja Vidic ©
M: Michael Carrick
M: Wayne Rooney
F: Carlos Tevez
F: Cristiano Ronaldo
“The impossible Treble? The impossible selection gig, more like. The collective whose all-conquering deeds prompted Sir Alex Ferguson’s knighthood is widely renowned as the greatest squad in United’s history, with legends competing for positions all over the field… so whittling it down to a six-a-side team is impossible without snubbing some all-time greats.“That said, it begins in straightforward fashion with Peter Schmeichel in goal. The giant Dane was probably the greatest goalkeeper United have had, and his presence is a gimme here. Schmeichel was so good, in fact, that it prompts confidence in selecting the remainder of the six-a-side team. With him as the last line of defence, we only need one specialist defender, and who better than another monolith: Jaap Stam. The big Dutchman’s debut campaign at Old Trafford coincided with the Reds’ greatest-ever season yield, which owed much to his heady blend of brains and brawn in defence. Not only could he and Schmeichel shut out any opponent between them; big Jaap’s brilliant forward surges with the ball would lend unstoppable support in attack.“The remaining four positions are where things get tricky, but it’s impossible to leave out Roy Keane. Bringing balance to the team’s spine, the skipper would bolster both attack and defence, and his relentless drive and stamina would ensure terror for the opposition throughout. Alongside him, either David Beckham or Ryan Giggs would work beautifully, but the narrower pitch would lend itself to the selection of Paul Scholes, chief lockpicker, to supply the forward line.“Up front provides another impossible dilemma, but I’d go for Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, just by virtue of their near-telepathic connection, which would be key to besting tight defences like the 07/08 vintage. I can only pray that there’s a substitutes bench for Ole, Teddy, Giggsy, Becks et al; not that this team would need reinforcements against anyone – even the 2007/08 Double winners.“
1. Peter Schmeichel
The Treble campaign was Schmeichel’s eighth and final season at Old Trafford, and he bowed out in style as stand-in skipper against Bayern Munich. His haul of 11 major honours and general regard as one of goalkeeping’s all-time greats demonstrates his legacy on both collective and personal levels.
The Dutchman’s Reds career was altogether too brief, but the impression he made in little more than three seasons always prompts his inclusion in discussions about United’s greatest centre-backs. A huge, imposing presence but also gifted in possession, he remains a real fan favourite.
3. Roy Keane
The greatest captain in Premier League history, and arguably in United’s storied past (we can let him fight Robbo for that honour). A ferocious, stampeding, vein-bulging, pass-picking ball of victory made flesh who lifted every Reds team he graced.
The third-highest appearance-maker in United’s history, one of the most gifted playmakers to pull on the shirt and a player universally beloved and appreciated by his team-mates. Scholesy’s 20 seasons brought a staggering 20 major honours and a place in club folklore.
5. Dwight Yorke
Comfortably one of the most influential debut campaigns ever witnessed at Old Trafford proved to be one of the main reasons behind the Treble. Yorke only remained a Red for another three subsequent seasons, but six huge trophies in four years demonstrates his importance to the cause.
6. Andy Cole
A British-record capture from Newcastle in January 1995, goal-machine Cole (the 17th highest scorer in club history) enjoyed a successful Old Trafford career which went into overdrive with Yorke’s arrival and the formation of their legendary partnership.
Charlie explains his choices:
“Selecting all three members of United’s 2007/08 attacking triumvirate might appear a rather bold strategy for a six-a-side game, but considering Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez plundered a combined 79 goals that term en route to a Premier League and Champions League double, it just didn’t seem right to leave one of them out.
“Sir Alex Ferguson was never shy to rotate the trio’s attacking positions that season – as memorably witnessed in the Champions League final, when central forward Tevez was flanked by Ronaldo to his left and Rooney to his right – but here I’ll place Rooney in a slightly deeper role, where he’s since proven very effective, using his tactical knowledge to dictate play just behind the front two.
“With apologies to the consistently flawless Rio Ferdinand, his fellow 2007/08 PFA Team of the Year member Nemanja Vidic gets the nod in defence, on account of it being a one-man backline – the Serbian’s job to sit back and destroy any danger with minimal fuss, while supplying deep-lying midfielder Michael Carrick with the ball whenever possible. Always calm in possession and with a wide range of passing – as seen across 49 games in 2007/08 – the Reds’ current first-team coach would be just the man to set this side’s free-scoring threesome into motion.
“All that’s left to complete this line-up is the goalkeeper, with no debate to be had in this area. Although 37 years old by the season’s end, Edwin van der Sar was still very much at the top of his game, and as agile and alert as ever at throwing himself down to low shots (just ask Nicolas Anelka), which is crucial in a small-sided game.
“Although I’d hand Vidic the armband, there are leaders across the pitch here, and in my opinion it’s a side that even the Reds’ Treble-winning vintage of ’99 would find very hard to overcome.“
1. Edwin van der Sar
The 6ft 6in stopper spent six seasons with the Reds, winning not six but seven major trophies in that time, including the 2008 Club World Cup. The 2007/08 season saw the Dutchman concede just 25 goals in 44 games, with 24 clean sheets.
2. Nemanja Vidic
Signed from Spartak Moscow in December 2005 for a bargain £7 million, the Serbian’s partnership with Rio Ferdinand would soon become one of the most respected defensive double-acts in the sport. Vidic was named club captain ahead of the 2010/11 season.
Wallsend-born Carrick played more games (49) in 2007/08 than in any of his 19 campaigns as a senior footballer – a dozen of those as a Red. Never fazed by the big occasion, Carrick's cool head helped the midfielder win every major honour available to him in the club game.
4. Wayne Rooney
After stunning Old Trafford with a debut hat-trick as a teenager in 2004, Rooney would go on to become United's all-time leading scorer (253 goals), as well as club captain following Vidic's departure in 2014. Still only 34 and playing for Derby County, he's also England's record scorer (53).
The Argentinian's shock move across town to City in 2009 explains why you won’t see many ‘Tevez 32' shirts at Old Trafford these days, but there's no disputing the impact he made across two terms in M16: 34 goals in 99 games, plus five winner's medals.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
For all the talent here, he's the first name on the team-sheet. Having wowed the crowds the previous season with a 23-goal haul from out wide, incredibly he nearly doubled that tally in 2007/08, with 42 goals in 49 games. As such, a first of his five Ballon d'Or awards was a formality later that year.
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