Barcelona v Manchester United Greatest Ever Xls: Who Wins?

With the Manchester United v Barcelona final edging closer, a look at who makes their greatest ever line-ups. One clue, Andrew Cole is nowhere near it...
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With the Manchester United v Barcelona final edging closer, a look at who makes their greatest ever line-ups. One clue, Andrew Cole is nowhere near it...

With the Manchester United v Barcelona final edging closer, a look at who makes their greatest ever line-ups. One clue, Andrew Cole is nowhere near it...

Manchester United Greatest XI

GK: Peter Schmeichel – Signed as a virtual unknown in 1991, his size, prodigious throwing and mammoth kicks immediately marked him down as something very different. As much the first point of attack as last line of defence. After an early roughing up from Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang he quickly toughened up and went on to become Manchester United’s greatest ever. “Prone to the odd error” critics may point out, but when he saved as many games as he did during a season, who cares? 9

RB: Roger Byrne – Local lad who was captain and elder statesman of the incomparable Busby Babes. Perhaps not the best technically but more than made up for any deficiency with his reading of the game. An England regular, fatefully he never made it to the 1958 World Cup. 7

CB: Martin Buchan – “The Fonz is cool but Buchan is cooler” ran the Stretford End’s chant, summing up the ice-cool nature of United’s best ever defender. Having just the one FA Cup to show for his time at Manchester United is a criminal return for a player who was almost as integral to the team in the ‘70s as Robson was in the ‘80s. 8

LB: Denis Irwin – Incredibly underrated player who, after a somewhat inauspicious start after his arrival from Oldham, went on to become the club’s most consistent and decorated player of the 1990s. Also weighed in with more than his fair share of goals. 7

RM: Cristiano Ronaldo – From 2006–2009 he was as dominant a presence in Manchester United’s team as any of his predecessors. His goals dragged the side to a hat-trick of titles and successive European Cup finals – he was well worthy of the 2008 Ballon d’Or. Probably the first player on whom United supporters could legitimately bestow the title “best player in the world”. 9

CM: Duncan Edwards – Many young players are hyped up beyond justification, yet anyone wondering whether the recognition Edwards received is truly justified for a player who died when only 21 years old only has to consider the range and knowledge of those within the game who cite him as one of the game’s true greats.10

CM: Bryan Robson – The rock on which Atkinson’s Manchester United was built, his absences to injury were the reason Ron’s team so often failed. The phrase ‘one-man team’ is self-evidently an exaggeration when applied in a team sport, but with Robson it was as close to reality as it could come. 8

CM: Roy Keane – The driving force behind Ferguson’s greatest side, he continually set the tone for the team, whether through his metronomic passing, fearsome tackling, lung-busting effort or never-say-die determination. A winner amongst winners, the rock on which the 1999 Treble was won. 8

LM: George Best – The one, the only. Playing alongside both him and Ronaldo would probably have had Charlton tearing out what little remained of his once-flowing blonde locks but it would’ve been worth it. There’d probably have to be two balls on the pitch, mind. 10

CF: Bobby Charlton – Still holds the record for the most starts and goals of any United player. No ‘rests’ for this stalwart despite countless battles on the bogs that passed for pitches in the 1950s and ‘60s. As two-footed as they come, he could play anywhere in midfield or attack. Officially acknowledged as the continent’s best player in 1966, he’s one of only three Englishmen to win the European and World Cups. 10

CF: Denis Law – Often the overlooked member of United’s Holy Trinity but back in the day was the Stretford End’s favourite, its very own King. And with good reason. Fearless, brave and aggressive, he played as the fans would like to. Scored every sort of goal, from 20-yard headers to acrobatic overhead kicks to six yard tap-ins. Ballon d’Or winner in 1964, he regularly topped the scoring charts before injuries started to take their toll on his slender frame. 10

Manager: Matt Busby – Built the club up from nothing. Twice. To do it the first time was special, to repeat the feat after the pain, devastation and his own near-death at Munich was almost unbelievable. Never compromised on his ideals, be it for attacking football or anything else. 9

105

BARCELONA

GK: Andoni Zubizarreta – The Basque goalkeeper spent eight years at the Camp Nou, and was the number one when Barcelona won their first ever European Cup in 1992. 7

RB: Carles Puyol – The leader and Captain of the current Barcelona side, his wholehearted commitment and strength is invaluable and an inspiration to his team mates. The Catalan hero is 32 but few would bet against him lifting even more trophies before he retires. 8

CB: Miguel Angel Nadal – Nadal like Puyol was as tough as they come hence his nickname ‘The Beast'. Played just under 500 games for Barcelona and would certainly relish the opportunity of looking after the flair players. 8

CB: Ronald Koeman – Prior to the recent triumphs in 2006 and 2009, Barcelona's finest achievement was on a balmy night at Wembley in 1992 when they finally got their hands on the European Cup. It was the Dutchman who scored the only goal of the game with a trademark free-kick. Added craft to Nadal's guile in the heart of defence. 8

LB: Sergi Barjuan – The attacking full-back was a regular for nearly a decade winning three La Liga medals in the process. 7

RM: Johann Cruyff – In his first season led Barcelona to their first league title since 1960 , scoring in the famous 5-0 victory over their arch enemy at the Bernabeau along the way. That, aside from a Copa Del Rey triumph in 1978, was the only honour he won at Barca, but his spell as player saw him win the hearts of the Barca faithful. 10

LM: Lionel Messi – Finally a true heir to Diego Maradona’s throne, a genius number 10. Only 23 but has done so much already - unbelievable. 10

CM: DiegoMaradona – Diego’s time at Barcelona may well have been brief, but then the best ever player to play the game is an automatic choice in any side. 10

CM: MichaelLaudrup – The conductor of the dream team managed by Johan Cruyff in the early 90s. Would create something out of nothing and feed the likes of Stoichkov and Romario, the latter calling him the best player he ever played with. He was so good he can just, but only just, be excused for moving to Real Madrid 9

ST: Ronaldo – Sadly now known as the ‘fat Ronaldo’. ‘El Fenomeno’ is a more appropriate moniker and whilst he only spent one season at the Camp Nou but it was an unbelievable season for the lightning quick goal machine. 10

CF: Romario – Recently described himself as the best ever Brazilian player with the exception of Pele. Whilst Garrincha or Zico may not agree, the diminutive and temperamental striker could certainly stake a claim. One-on-one he's had few peers. 9

Manager: Cruyff (player-manager) – The former player returned to the Nou Camp in 1988 and built a side that would become known as the ‘Dream Team’. Led them to four straight titles, but more importantly masterminded the clubs first ever European Cup win. 9

Total Score: 105

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