Who makes United's ultimate tournament XI?

Friday 11 June 2021 12:07

Throughout the years, some of the most decorated stars have turned out in red and white. But what about the United players who have transferred their performances onto the international stage?

With the next instalment of UEFA’s European Championship set to kick off on Friday evening (11 June), we’ve decided to conjure up an XI of United players who have shone when it mattered while representing their country…


The Danes exceeded all expectations by winning the tournament back in 1992, but it was in thanks to a superb showing throughout from the United shot-stopper. Making a string of invaluable saves to firstly hold England to 0-0 draw in their opening fixture, to brilliantly denying both Eric Cantona and Jean Pierre-Papin in a 2-1 win that saw the Danes reach the semi-finals. Yet somehow the best was still to come for the former Brondby man: Schmeichel stopped Marco van Basten’s decisive penalty in a semi-final shootout with Holland, to ensure it would be his side that later went on to lift the trophy for the first time.

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At his first major tournament as a 19-year-old, a then baby-faced Gary Neville was superb in England’s eventual charge to the semi-finals where they were eliminated on penalties by winners Germany. Neville missed that game due to the accumulation of two yellow cards in two separate games, but the United Academy graduate played in each game up until his suspension. Bury-born Neville was excellent throughout with a string of stellar performances in wins against Scotland and the Netherlands, and went on to cement his spot as the Three Lions' first-choice right-back for 10 years after a brilliant tournament.


Reaching the semi-finals for the second successive European Championship with the Netherlands, Stam was an integral part of the Dutch’s defensive wall up until their exit at Euro 2000 – even famously receiving stitches on the sidelines during his side's opener with Czech Republic after a nasty collision with striker Jan Koller. The former United no.6, alongside partner Frank do Boer, was instrumental in de Oranje’s stunning 3-2 win over eventual winners France in which his side twice came from behind. The Dutch were eliminated by Italy on penalties in the semi-finals in which Stam missed his side's second penalty kick. It was later revealed that he was not scheduled to take part in the shootout and only did so due to the injuries and fatigue of his team-mates.


Partnering the experienced Andreas Granqvist at the 2018 Russia World Cup, Victor Lindelof started to show some of the defensive qualities that warranted him a move to Old Trafford just a year before. After missing his side's first Group F match with South Korea, Lindelof returned to ensure back-to-back clean sheets for his country and oversee Sweden’s progression to the knockout stages. Eventually beaten by England in the quarter-finals. it was to be a breakthrough tournament for the United centre-back.


Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side were one of the surprise packages at World Cup 1994, with a young Denis Irwin contributing to one of his nation's all-time great footballing moments. Famously beating Italy 1-0 thanks to Ray Houghton’s looping effort, the Irish exited at the Round of 16 but could hold their heads high after their success against one of Italy’s best ever footballing sides. As for Irwin, his side's resolute defending in the famous win will live long in the memory, in what was only Ireland's second appearance at a World Cup.


A midfield maestro and World Cup winner in his own right, no best tournament XI could not include Collyhurst-born Nobby Stiles. Playing every minute in England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, Stiles was a superb defensive midfielder often praised for his imperious man-marking and tough-tackling nature. Later awarded an MBE in 2000 after sections of the media raised the fact that five of the famous ’66 squad had not been decorated for their successes, Stiles is one of only two Englishmen to win both a European Cup and the World Cup.


A World Cup and a Ballon d’Or in both the same year? Not bad for a United youth product. Charlton is an easy addition to his XI due to his heroics in 1966. Netting twice in the semi-final against Portugal and scoring England’s first goal of the tournament against Mexico, Charlton’s name will forever be earmarked as one of England’s greatest footballing talents. A survivor of the tragic Munich Air Disaster at the age of just 20, his recovery from such an ordeal to reach the very top of the game is a testament to the man.

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United’s current number six was instrumental in France’s World Cup success just three years ago and was involved from the minute go. His clever through-ball opened the game up to produce a penalty for France’s opener against Australia and Les Bleus never really looked back. An array of different types of midfield performances from the former Juventus man helped his team dictate games to their tempo and showed the many facets to his often heavily scrutinised game. A classy curling effort in the final against Croatia capped off a wonderful tournament in which his country lifted the World Cup for a second time. 
After losing the 2004 final in a tightly contested battle with underdogs Greece, you could understand how much it meant to the former United number seven when his country did lift the trophy back in 2016. Blessed with stars of yesteryear like Luis Figo and Rui Costa, the Portuguese were favourites to win the competition. But it was also a tournament in which their prodigious teenager began to show his technical prowess. Netting his first goal in Portugal’s 2-1 loss to Greece, as well as scoring a crucial effort in another 2-1 win (this time over the Netherlands) to help Portugal reach the final in Lisbon. It wasn’t to be in the end, but another generational star was beginning to blossom and, since then, Ronaldo has gone from strength to strength for both his clubs and his country. 
United’s flying Dutchman had a superb World Cup back in 2014 and even netted one of the greatest finals goals of modern times. Receiving a long aerial ball from Daley Blind and through on goal, Van Persie flew through the air to loop a diving header beyond Iker Casillas to equalise against then world champions Spain. Netherlands eventually ran out 5-1 winners before losing to Argentina in the semi-finals on penalties. His four goals across the tournament certainly made it one to remember, with the Netherlands' electric pace making them a joy to watch throughout the competition.
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At just 16 years old, ‘Stormin’ Norman’, as he was known. featured in all of his country's games at the 1982 World Cup. With only two Reds appearances prior to the tournament, and an illustrious career to follow, he remains to this day the youngest player to ever take part in a World Cup, as well as the youngest to score in a League Cup final and an FA Cup final. Eventually winning 38 caps for Northern Ireland, they crashed out of the ’82 finals in the second round, despite topping their first-round group beforehand. 
Hailed for his off-field heroics prior to the tournament, for ending a long-standing dispute between striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and manager Marco van Basten, the former United shot-stopper was named in the Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament for his stellar performances in a 3-0 win over Italy and also a 4-1 win over France. The Netherlands eventually exited at the quarter-finals in a 3-1 loss to Russia. At the time, those were believed to be his final appearances for the Dutch, but he returned two years later at the 2010 World Cup.
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Rising highest to meet a superb David Beckham delivery inside the first 10 minutes, Scholes helped England charge into a two-goal lead over Portugal at Euro 2000. Though they eventually lost 3-2, the Ginger Prince was the shining light at the heart of England’s midfield, but was later cast aside by Sven-Goran Eriksson and pushed to a left-midfield spot four years later to cater for the midfield pair of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. England and Germany were both eliminated at the group stages and Scholes chose club over country in 2004.
Smashing home two goals in a 4-2 win over Croatia in Lisbon back in June 2004, many could not believe the sheer excitement and raw talent possessed in an England shirt by a beady-eyed Wayne Rooney. Bursting onto the scene as a then 18-year-old, the former United forward seemingly had the world at his feet and England had a new batch of hope. A broken metatarsal in the quarter-finals ended Rooney’s tournament and arguably England's too. The Three Lions suffered yet another penalty exit, this time at the hands of hosts Portugal, after Rooney had been forced to leave the field.
Netting Mexico’s opener in a 2-0 win over France back in 2010, United’s new signing had announced himself in perfect fashion on the biggest stage of them all. That wasn’t all however, as he smashed home another in his side's 3-1 defeat to Argentina at the Round-of-16 stage. The South Africa finals were full of surprises with England, Italy and France all eliminated earlier than expected, but Chicharito had arrived, with United fans licking their lips at the prospect of the Mexican’s Reds debut following his superb summer antics.