Legends profiles: Goalkeepers and defenders
All this week, we're building up to Saturday's Legends of the North fixture between Manchester United and Liverpool.
Both squads have been confirmed, so we thought it'd be useful to provide a little more depth on every player involved for each side, especially for our younger readers.
Today, we're starting with Manchester United's goalkeepers and defenders...
RAIMOND VAN DER GOUW
The Dutchman joined United from Vitesse Arnhem as backup to Peter Schmeichel, but went on to make enough appearances to earn a Premier League winner’s medal in both 1999/2000 and 2000/01. He then had spells with West Ham, RKC Waalwijk and AGOVV Apeldoorn (for whom he scored a penalty on his final appearance), eventually retiring aged 44. Since then he’s worked as a goalkeeper coach at Sunderland, Vitesse and in his current role with Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven. Raimond is no stranger to these Legends matches, having previously played against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona at Old Trafford.
Pilkington was involved in the Reds’ famous FA Youth Cup triumph of 1992 and kept a clean sheet on his first-team debut when replacing Peter Schmeichel early on against Crystal Palace in November 1994. He eventually left for Port Vale in 1998, later having lengthy stays with Mansfield Town and Notts County among stints with various other sides. His final playing appearance came in 2014 for County, where he was also working as goalkeeper coach, but in August 2018 he almost made a remarkable return when he was named on the bench while coaching at Cambridge United. He’s now on the backroom staff at Luton Town.
Another Academy product who was a reliable presence in the United backline from his debut in May 1998, right through to his departure to Sunderland 13 years later. Perhaps his finest campaign came in 2007/08, when he played 52 of 57 games across all competitions and firmly established himself as first-choice right-back, setting up Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the Champions League final triumph over Chelsea and finding the net in a 3-0 Premier League win over Saturday’s opponents for good measure. As well as Sunderland, the England international also turned out for Blackburn and Kerala Blasters in India, before hanging up his boots in 2018.
Now recognised as one of the main faces of Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage, alongside fierce former Liverpool rival Jamie Carragher, Neville is currently fifth on United’s all-time appearance list. Few players have embodied the passion for the club as much as the former right-back, as he infamously demonstrated with a heartfelt celebration in front of the visiting fans against the Merseysiders in 2006. Gary built up a potent partnership with David Beckham on his flank, racking up plenty of assists thanks to some precise delivery. He was equally adept defensively, helping the Reds keep 148 clean sheets in his 400 Premier League outings.
A popular figure among his United team-mates, and still much loved by the Old Trafford faithful to this day, Evra proved to be one of the biggest bargains of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long reign as manager, arriving from Monaco for around £5.5 million before developing into one of the world’s leading full-backs. He won 14 trophies with United, including captaining the side in the 2010 League Cup final victory against Aston Villa. Always keen to push forward, Evra’s most spectacular strike for United was his last, a blistering Champions League finish against Bayern Munich in 2014. Patrice is still entertaining supporters post retirement – particularly on his social media channels!
The ultimate team player, O’Shea featured in practically every position for United, even once keeping a clean sheet in goal in the closing stages away to Tottenham. More moments of magic made him a United cult hero, including nutmegging Luis Figo, scoring a delightful chip away to Arsenal, and a thumping stoppage-time winner at Anfield. After leaving the Reds in 2011, he went on to play more than 250 games for Sunderland and sits third on the all-time list for most Ireland caps. He finished his playing career at Reading, where he was later a coach until 2021.
Before signing in September 1999, Silvestre could have ended up at Anfield, coincidentally making his debut in a 3-2 win there days after turning down a move to Liverpool. Further tormenting of the Merseysiders followed in September 2004 when his brace of headers clinched a 2-1 victory. He left for Arsenal in 2008, spending time in Germany, the USA and India before retiring in 2014.
Once described by Sir Alex Ferguson as among the three most underrated players he managed at United – alongside Brian McClair and Ji-sung Park – Johnsen was a key member of the 1999 Treble-winning side, playing the full 90 minutes in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals. One of his nine United goals came against Liverpool at Old Trafford, and he eventually left to join Aston Villa in 2002, after a trophy-laden Reds stay. A member of Norway’s 1998 World Cup squad, Johnsen had his first managerial experience in charge of Norwegian fourth-tier side Eik Tonsberg between 2020 and 2021.
Stam quickly became one of the most commanding defenders in United history, striking an imposing presence en route to Treble success in his debut season. He played 102 times during his first two campaigns, and helped United become the first club to win three consecutive Premier League titles, before departing for Lazio in August 2001. There, he won the Coppa Italia, later turning out for AC Milan and Ajax prior to retirement in 2007. Stam began a managerial career – which has included a return to Old Trafford in the opposition dugout with Reading in an FA Cup tie – in 2017. He left his most recent role, with FC Cincinnati, in September 2021.
Come back tomorrow, when we'll have profiles of our midfielders and forwards, while later in the week we'll also be taking a forensic look at Liverpool's squad.
The player profiles were originally published in the Legends of the North programme, which you can purchase online or at Saturday's game.