Manchester United: A Comparison of Sneijder, Cantona, Scholes And Ronaldo

If the on-off transfer saga of the summer is ever resolved Wesley Sneijder would surely light up Old Trafford. But could he become a Manchester United legend? Can he walk in the footprints of giants...
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If the on-off transfer saga of the summer is ever resolved Wesley Sneijder would surely light up Old Trafford. But could he become a Manchester United legend? Can he walk in the footprints of giants...

Will he come or won’t he? The Sneijder to Manchester United saga has rumbled throughout the summer with countless rumours followed by counter-rumour, outright denial immediately softened by a suggestive wink. Sneijder showed some ankle last week with a veiled ‘come and get me’ plea that was promptly rebuffed by David Gill stating that the deal probably won’t go ahead now. The whole thing has been as chaste, protracted and awkward as two virgins getting it on at a Christian disco.

Should the flying Dutchman add to the already tyrannical array of talent at United’s disposal however there is no doubt that he will light up the Premier League. An exceptional talent who possesses the full package of flair, vision, pace, graft and craft he has the potential to one day join the pantheon of previous United greats who similarly dazzled. Can he walk in the footsteps of giants? Let’s break it down and see how he compares to the past masters.

Creativity – His raison d’etre. The reason he gets out of bed in the morning is to create pure and simple. Well that and to earn his reported 200,000 grand a week wages. The reason our Wes poses such a constant threat is the high-energy hustle and bustle – the urgency – that accompanies the array of tricks and turns. A dervish of pro-activity. 9/10

Dead-Ball Delivery – A specialist set-piece taker capable of getting whip and spin from even short-range distances Sneijder began this season with a special little number against Milan in last week’s Super Cup derby. 8/10

Defensive duties – An overall decent work ethic best illustrated by the scarcity of occasions when he ‘goes missing’. The Dutchman may have the odd game where he struggles to impose himself – the inevitable bane of the creative – but he always shows, makes himself available as a possible outlet and is willing to dig in when necessary. 7/10

Passing – You don’t become a legend at Ajax without possessing a supernatural instinct for knowing where your team-mates are and having the unselfish propensity to pass to them. Sneijder doesn’t just link up play, he propels it forward into dangerous areas with intelligent probing. Dare I say it, in this regard at least, he’s nearly the equal of Scholes. 9/10

Goal threat – It’s been a case of diminishing returns for Wesley at each of his previous three clubs. At Ajax he was used centrally but in a weaker league was able to flourish with an impressive 48 in 127 appearances. Since he moved to Madrid and presently Milan he has settled for an average of one in five which is not a bad return for a fantasista. 7/10

Arguably the only Englishman who can look Pele and Beckenbauer dead in the eyes and not blink in deference

Bobby Charlton

All Roy of the Rovers thunderbolts and athleticism Charlton was the creative piston that won England the World Cup with a Werther’s Original tucked into his sock (probably). Arguably the only Englishman who can look Pele and Beckenbauer dead in the eyes and not blink in deference, he never needed to rely on showboating trickery to beat a man, instead entrusting a pragmatic footballing brain like no other.

I once met a guy who swore blind that Willie Morgan was a superior talent to Wor Bobby. I backed slowly out of the room as if talking to a man stroking a puppet made from bombs.

Creativity – With little requirement for impish tricks and flicks Bobby played to his strengths; seeing the space behind the man, knocking the ball past him, and using his momentum to run into it. Simple yet devastatingly effective. 9/10

Dead-ball delivery – In the days before goalies wore gloves imagine lining up a poorly-constructed wall with Charlton patting down his comb-over preparing to blast one at you from twenty yards. Stinging hands or forlornly picking the ball out of the net. It’s lose-lose either way. 9/10

Defensive duties – They had no time for fancy-dans in the sixties. You rolled your sleeves up and got stuck in. Bobby had a team ethic that modern-day attacking midfielders who don’t have a hundredth of his ability wouldn’t even comprehend 9/10

Passing - Like the man himself: crisp, no-nonsense and purposeful. 8/10

Goal threat – 210 goals in 651 professional appearances is impressive enough. But then you consider just how sensational some of them were….10/10

Eric Cantona

The iconic benchmark to which all future Old Trafford greats should aspire to one day get close to. Though never, ever equal. Sneijder could mesmerise Barca single-handedly in a Champion’s League final – leave Messi flat on his arse and crying like a girl – smelt his winners medal down into twenty thousand pieces before handing them out individually to each punter in the Stretford End and still the cry would go up ‘The king is dead…long live the prince’.

The poetry-loving sardine-thrower routinely achieved the magnificent with effortless ease, as if the lush green pitches of the world’s greatest clubs were his back garden. And the best defenders around were his children he was gently chiding with some grown-up keep-ball.

Creativity – ‘I am searching for abstract ways of expressing reality, abstract forms that will enlighten my own mystery’. 9/10

Dead-ball delivery - ‘I try to find different ways of expressing myself. Without that I will die’ 8/10

Defensive duties – ‘Sometimes you get submerged by emotion. I think it's very important to express it - which doesn't necessarily mean hitting someone’ 6/10

Passing – ‘It is enjoyable to make things visible which are invisible’ 9/10

Goal threat – ‘I am not a man. I am Cantona’ 9/10

This is the phenomenon that you will be compared to Wesley. Good luck with that.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The closest comparative player on this list and one whom the Inter schemer will be hoping to mirror, if only in terms of short-term explosive impact. The borderline transsexual arrived in Manchester in 2003 for twelve million smackers. He left six years later for Madrid for a yearly wage of the same amount. In between he dazzled and astonished in equal measure, defying the laws of physics with his 1000mph whirligig free-kicks and scoffing at conventional thinking by bagging a one in two strike-ratio as a winger that made foxes-in-boxes weep with envy.

In 2008 he was justly awarded the Ballon D’Or, the first United recipient since Best.

This is the phenomenon that you will be compared to Wesley. Good luck with that.

Creativity – Electrifying pace, direct and utterly brilliant. 10/10

Dead-ball delivery – He almost redefined the genre 10/10

Defensive duties – Like most out-and-out flair players it often depended on whether he was riled by an early challenge not given in his favour 6/10

Passing – ‘What’s that? You mean one-twos?’ 6/10

Goal threat – Astonishing statistics from a guy who spent half the game hugging the touchline 10/10

Paul Scholes

…………….BEST PLAYER EVER! That was me arriving late and over the top like a Scholes challenge. That (deserved) dig aside the ginger lad from Oldham should have played with a baton in his hand. One of the finest ‘quarterbacks’ the British game has ever produced he was equally damaging in the final third with an unerring ability to keep a shot low and accurate whilst travelling like an exocet missile. His sublime passing range was a Godsend for a side that harvested on swift, lethal counter-attacking. If Sneijder is intended as Scholes’ successor he faces an unenviable, almost momentous task. Because how the hell do you replace the irreplaceable?

Creativity – Mixed play up better than anyone from his generation. Short one-twos followed by a searching thirty-yard spray, then a simple knock-on. 10/10

Dead-ball delivery – A tendancy to over-hit corners and drive free-kicks into walls exposes a rare, and unexpected, flaw in Scholes' make-up 6/10

Defensive duties – For graft and work ethic 10/10. For tackling 0/10. So let’s compromise with a generous 5/10

Passing - The pass master who has even Xavi bowing at his boots 10/10

Goal threat – Dried up a touch in the latter half of his career simply due to being employed deeper. But no-one can strike a ball better, harder or more accurately 8/10

Final results –

Bobby Charlton 45/50

Cristiano Ronaldo 42/50

Eric Cantona – 41/50

Wesley Sneijder 40/50

Paul Scholes 39/50

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