Legends profiles: Midfielders and forwards
Our run-through of Manchester United's 20-man squad for Saturday's Legends of the North fixture with Liverpool has reached the attacking half of the pitch.
Manager Bryan Robson and assistant Andy Cole will have five midfielders and three forwards to choose from at Old Trafford for the 15:00 BST kick-off, with those eight players boasting lots of senior United goals between them.
The Merseysiders may fearing the worst once they've taken in these names...
A talented wide player who initially piqued the interest of Sir Alex Ferguson with his performances at home in Sweden, Blomqvist was signed as a back-up to Ryan Giggs in 1998 after spells at AC Milan and Parma in Serie A. He proved a vital part of the Treble-winning squad, making all of his 38 United appearances that season, including as a starter in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. A significant knee injury curtailed his Old Trafford stay and ultimately his career, with short spells at Everton, Charlton Athletic and back in Sweden failing to offer a return to the heights of 1998/99.
A seven-year United career was no piece of luck for Fortune, whose versatile and reliable nature earned him Sir Alex’s approval upon a 1999 trial. Prior to his time in Manchester, Quinton had begun his professional career at Tottenham before a short stint at Mallorca and three years at Atletico Madrid. He played in three title-winning campaigns and scored twice at the 2000 Club World Championship. After leaving Old Trafford, Fortune played for Bolton Wanderers, Brescia, Tubize and Doncaster Rovers before heading into coaching with Cardiff City’s U21s, United’s U23s and then Reading’s first team. It’s also his birthday on the day of the fixture – many happy returns, Quinton!
Gorton-born Academy graduate Butt was part of the club’s 1992 FA Youth Cup-winning side. After making his United debut later that year, he had to wait until the 1994/95 season for his big break. Butt quickly became a crucial first-team starter and lifted six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League before leaving for Newcastle United ahead of the 2004/05 season. A spell in South China preceded his 2012 step into coaching at United’s Academy. Four years in that role prepared him to become United’s Academy chief – a role in which he flourished until being made head of first-team development. Butt left United in March 2021.
Success in his homeland translated to an impressive performance at Euro 96, where Poborsky lit up the tournament with a brilliant lob over Vitor Baia to score against Portugal. That summer proved a life-changing one as the winger swapped Slavia Prague for United, where he earned a Premier League winner’s medal in his first season with 22 league appearances – and four goals – as the Reds also reached the Champions League semi-finals. His departure after 18 months came due to David Beckham holding down a starting position, and Poborsky enjoyed spells at Benfica, Lazio and Sparta Prague while completing an excellent centurion’s international career at the 2006 World Cup.
Two United Players’ Player of the Year awards, plus one Matt Busby Player of the Year prize, to match his two Premier League titles is quite the achievement for the Ecuadorian wide-man, who grew up playing barefoot near the Amazon rainforest. Valencia’s explosive wide play at the 2006 World Cup and then with Wigan Athletic earned him an Old Trafford move, and over the course of a decade he won several individual awards, enjoyed fruitful seasons both as a powerhouse wide midfielder and a reliable right-back, and captained the team in 2017’s Europa League victory against Ajax in Stockholm. The following year saw Valencia became official club captain until his 2019 departure, when he joined LDU Quito in his homeland. He retired in 2021.
The first scorer of a United hat-trick against Liverpool in 64 years upon his 2010 treble, the unhurried and elegant striker remains much loved at Old Trafford for the many moments of sublime quality he delivered. An eye-catching signing from Tottenham Hotspur, the 6ft 2in Bulgarian had what Sir Alex described as a “touch of genius”, perhaps best demonstrated by the second of his three against Saturday’s opponents: a stunning overhead kick. Two months later, he put five past Blackburn Rovers. Extraordinary goals and goalscoring feats continued at Fulham and Monaco before his 2019 retirement.
A brilliant run of goalscoring form in 2006 was the highlight of Saha’s often injury-affected four-year United career, in which his style of play was key for a thrilling young Reds team. The Frenchman, who started his career at Metz before several seasons at Fulham, had the power and persistence of an old-fashioned striker, and the technique and pace of a more modern frontman. He left in 2008 with medals from two Premier League titles, a League Cup – well earned after he scored six goals in five games – and the Champions League. Saha enjoyed a good four years at Everton before shorter stints at Tottenham, Sunderland and Lazio.
Born in Manchester, Webber came through the youth system at United and signed his first professional contract with the club in December 1998. He made his Reds debut in a League Cup tie with Sunderland two seasons later and added two further appearances, in between loan spells with Port Vale and Watford, prior to joining the Hornets on a permanent basis in the summer of 2003. A regular goalscorer in the Championship, Danny went on to play Premier League football with Sheffield United and Portsmouth and he also represented Leeds, Doncaster Rovers and Accrington Stanley before bringing his career to a close with a prolific spell in non-league with Salford City. A regular on MUTV’s coverage, Danny featured in the 2017 Legends match against Barcelona, scoring our second goal in a 2-2 draw with the Catalans.
Come back tomorrow, when we'll 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.