Manchester United have won the Premier League in many different ways. Victories have been achieved by, relying on the shoulders of marquee players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney. Titles have also been won, due to indomitable team spirit and excellent team work such as last season. But then, never has the club been able to achieve the fabled stature of the current Barcelona team or the Real Madrid team of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. It is not always by conscious choice or decisions that such teams are made. Only when the right people come to the right place at the right time, is magic created. Magic so good, that the great Houdini would be astounded by it.
However, any club worth its name will always make the utmost effort to take itself to that echelon of Dream Teams. For United, the Busby Babes might have done it, but that was not to be. Neither did the treble winners of 1999. Sir Alex in his time at Old Trafford has had charge of three, maybe four very good teams. But none of them were at the level of Barcelona today.
What Barca has achieved, has been achieved through years of meticulous planning and dedicated implementation. Keeping hold of the right players, bringing in that fledgling teenager from the Academy at just the right moment or buying marquee players, the moves and decisions have been spot on.
In this article, I will try to analyze those decisions which may have had a critical effect on Manchester United not being able to achieve that stature.
Manchester United had one the world’s best goalkeeper in Edwin Van Der Sar for 5 seasons. With Sir Alex himself admitting that he lost out on Van Der Sar in 1999, one might wonder what those not so fruitful seasons between 2003 and 2006 could have been.
In defence, Patrice Evra has been ever present for the last 6 years. I don’t think anyone else could have done the job better. With one slot being taken up by one of the world’s best central defenders in Nemanja Vidic, one is compelled to contemplate what it could have been if Sir Alex could have held on to Gerard Pique, arguably again one of the best in the business. Gary Neville had vigor and diligence, but if Sir Alex had kept Phil back at the club, then not only that amazing intensity would have been present, but also the outstanding skills of the younger Neville brother, who has gone on to captain Everton quite admirably.
With Cristiano Ronaldo able to play on both the wings, the left wing would have been at the feet of arguably the best winger in the world. Paul Scholes 3 years back and along with him a world beater in Ronaldinho, who actually rejected Manchester United for Barcelona, with whom United were heavily linked and we could have been looking at probably the best midfield in the Premier League and maybe in the world. Those crosses and free kicks of David Beckham could have never got old or outdated. He just needs to pull on the Red shirt and the crosses would have started flowing.
Just imagine Wayne Rooney and Giuseppe Rossi bombing towards defenders whoever that might be. Perhaps two of the worlds’ most prolific strikers who would have been the most lethal combination ever seen by the Premier League even outdoing the legendary pairing of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.
One does have to wonder where United could have reached if such realistic targets had been achieved. And wonder is all that we can do, seeing again the precarious talent of Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba walk out of the door…