In the league, it wouldn’t be outlandish to say that with City fifteen points behind them in the league, not only is ‘fresh air’ second, it’s also third and fourth, tying up the Champions’ League positions! It also wouldn’t be outlandish to say that Fergie’s Red Devils have been head and shoulders above any other team in the Premier League this season. So, is this a ‘stand out’ United team, or are the other ‘usual suspect’ clubs, in a bit of a reverse gear.
Comparing the successful eras of clubs and players is always good for banter and argument. Was Pele better than Maradonna? Was either of them up to Messi’s high standards? Who can say? We’ve all got opinions. So, I’m probably going to upset and annoy a few people, but hey, it’s only my opinion after all,and if you do disagree, I’m happy to see your views posted in the “Comments” below. Personally, although Manchester United have looked outstanding this season, I think as past old Trafford sides go, even in the Premier League era, they’re pretty ordinary, and certainly a long way off the treble-winning side of 1999. What makes me say that? Well if I look at the two teams and ask who from the 2012/13 team would get into the treble winners’ side, I think you’ll see my point. What has to be remembered of course is, for example the Rio Ferdinand I’m looking at now, is how he is this season, not how he was in his prime of a few years ago.
De Gea or Schmeichal? Well, no offence to the Spaniard, and he may become an outstanding ‘keeper, but at this moment, it’s a no-brainer. OK, now into defence. Looking at the back four, back in the day, Fergie could – and often did – go with Neville, Stam, Johnsen and Irwin. So does any of this season’s team displace that merry band? Evra ahead of Irwin might be a case someone would want to argue, but it wouldn’t be me. Jonny Evans, progressive as he is at the moment, is not yet in the class of the elegent and underrated Ronny Johnsen. Sure, Ferdinand and Vidic were colossuses in their pomp, but even then, I’m not sure I would have selected one of them in front of Stam. Certainly this season, with Vidic still apparently affected by his serious knee injury and Ferdinand beginning to look every year of his age,that argument carries even less weight. No, for me the back four is set.
It’s ironic that two of the 1999 midfielders are still plying their trade in then contemporary United outfit; ironic and probably significant. Just mention the midfield four of Beckham, Keene, Scholes and Giggs to any Manchester United fan, and watch the misty-eyed look look of joy fill their faces. Today, I’m not really sure who United’s first choice midfield four - or five if Fergie sets them out that way – would be. Perhaps Valencia on the right? I have to say that I’ve never really ‘got’ him in a United shirt, and being up against Beckham in comparison, I can’t even call that a discussion point. 1999 had Keene and Scholes and perhaps today, it would be Carrick and Jones, or perhaps, Anderson. Tell you what, I’d take Keene and Scholes as a pair against all three of today’s midfield. Out on the left, I’m going to say Kagawa from today’s squad. The Japanese is a good player, and only young, but Ryan Giggs is the outstanding player of the premiership era, and although he’s still good enough to cut the mustard in his fortieth year, in 1999, he was in his prime. Picking anyone from today in front of Giggs is a call that I’m simply not going to make. You may think I’m being a bit one-sided and viewing history through rose-tinted glasses, but I’m honestly saying that I can’t really see anyone player in defence our midfield, from today’s squad, displacing the 1999 selection. In attack however, it may be a different story.
Today, Fergie can choose from the four of Rooney, van Persie, Hernandez and Wellbeck, as opposed to in 1999 it was Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sherringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s a fairly close call, but I think I’m happy to go with Rooney and United player of the season van Persie.
So there you have it, logic tells me that today’s United are a good chunk away from the 1999 team, with only two players from today edging out the old guys, and to be honest, they were the most debatable decisions for me. Of course United can only beat who is in front of them, and they’ve done that pretty comprehensively in the league this season. That may be however less to do with the quality of United, and more to do with a rebuilding Liverpool, a lost-looking Arsenal, a Chelsea team giddy with the managerial merry-go-round, and a City team that has bought badly and suffered a kind of second season syndrome.
As I said above, this is all about opinions and these were mine, and they’re worth no more than anyone else’s. So, what do you think?