Sir Alex Ferguson kissing the European Cup after United's victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final
As most of you are likely aware, this Sunday will mark 25 years at Manchester United for legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The man holds many records and has won countless trophies during his storied time at the club. I thought it would be fun to open up the discussion on who Fergie's greatest XI ever was. There have been so many great players at United during his reign and it would be difficult to offer up a 'wrong' opinion since this is certainly subjective -- unless you mention Bebe. This idea stemmed from John Brewin's best Fergie XI.
It certainly seems like 4-4-2 would be the natural formation to choose for this but I am going to go against the grain. The United boss has probably used some sort of 4-4-2 more than any other shape during his time at the club. However, this typically has featured one withdrawn striker that plays between the lines and makes the shape close to either a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1. Fergie has evolved as a manager and he began to see more success in Europe when he used a 4-3-3/4-5-1 more often during the past decade. Because of this, and because I could not leave out either Roy Keane nor Bryan Robson out of my XI, I have opted to present my Fergie best XI in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 shape.
In goal, the great Peter Schmeichel is the obvious choice but Edwin van der Sar certainly deserves appreciation. At right-back, Gary Neville -- who perhaps perfectly embodies the United spirit -- is the choice while Denis Irwin gets the nod at left-back. Both are capable of providing width with overlapping runs in this 4-3-3/4-5-1. In central defense, Nemanja Vidic and Gary Pallister are chosen for me over the likes of Jaap Stam, Steve Bruce, and Rio Ferdinand. I strongly considered Stam over Pallister but the latter was chosen for me because of the former's relatively brief time at the club. In the center of the park, Keano and Robbo provide the steel while Paul Scholes provides the class. I loved Brewin's comment that Scholesy's "first touch was always in his head before he received the ball." Brilliant description. Up front, Eric Cantona leads the line in attack and he is flanked by Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo.
For my bench, van der Sar certainly is an able deputy for Schmeichel. Wayne Rooney provides the versatility to come on up top, out wide, or into the center of the park. Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, and Ruud van Nilstelrooy were all certainly brilliant strikers but since this is my bench, I'll go with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as my first substitution option if I need to chase a late goal. Ruud also earns a spot on this squad. Stam provides cover in central defense as does Patrice Evra at left-back. David Beckham provides another sort of option on the right flank.
Who is your Fergie all-time best XI? Who makes your bench? I look forward to reading all of your comments in regards to this.