Manchester United Greatest XI vs Wolves Greatest XI: Who Wins?

A Manchester United v Wolves fixture of today might be a one-sided affair but a clash of the greatest ever XIs seen by these two writers is a different matter entirely. It's Best and co vs the 'Champions of the World'.
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A Manchester United v Wolves fixture of today might be a one-sided affair but a clash of the greatest ever XIs seen by these two writers is a different matter entirely. It's Best and co vs the 'Champions of the World'.

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A Manchester United v Wolves fixture of today might be a one-sided affair but a clash of the greatest ever XIs seen by these two writers is a different matter entirely. It's Best and co vs the 'Champions of the World'.

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 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 Old Trafford 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 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 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

Total Score: 95

We were devastated when Joleon signed for Everton, the kind of devastation that is tinged with a little bit of pride.

Wolves Greatest Xl by Dave Blackhurst

GK: Phil Parkes

Tricky call this. I would argue that we’ve not had a world-class keeper since Bert Williams. I never saw him play so Phil gets the number 1 shirt. That’s not to disparage Parkes or any of the other goalies we’ve had over the years. Stowell, Burridge and Bradshaw were all fine players but Phil was the one I admired most. He was big, brave and could boot the ball miles – qualities that I cherished in the man between the sticks when I was 13.  8

RB: Geoff Palmer

Great hair, great attitude, great servant. An uncompromising full back with almost 500 appearances in the old gold and black, Palmer was local lad and life-long supporter. If it’s not to damn him with faint praise, Geoff was the type of solid professional that every team needs. Became a copper when he left the game, I’d like to think a solidly professional one.  8

CB: Frank Munro

Tough but stylish sums up Frank Munro. He started as a forward, was signed by us as a midfielder and served forever after as centre back, and a damn good one at that. There are quite a few opposing forwards who could vouch for Frank’s toughness. The Molineux faithful will vouch for his style. Football fans everywhere, with the exception of those in Leeds, rejoiced when one of Frank’s rare goals denied Revie’s side the double in ’72 and handed the title to Clough’s Derby. What a night. 8

CB: Joleon Lescott

We were devastated when Joleon signed for Everton, the kind of devastation that is tinged with a little bit of pride. We knew he was too good not to be snapped up and it was only a matter of time. He’d been talked up as a future star since joining the Wolves Academy and he didn’t disappoint. He had the skill, presence and vision required to be a top class defender.  An unfortunate knee injury (that gave conspiracy theorists a field day) kept him out of our first venture back in the Premiership. We like to think we would have survived if Lescott had been fit. We also like to believe he’ll come back when he’s had enough of City.   7

LB: Derek Parkin

Although he began as a right back, Bill McGarry moved him across to the left and there he stayed – forever it seemed. Parkin holds the record for most Wolves appearances and consequently is probably the player I’ve watched more than any other. He used the ball well and was never one to aimlessly boot it away if he could see an opportunity for a decent pass. If that opportunity was Waggy champing at the bit, so much the better. 7

RM: Kenny Hibbitt

We got Kenny for peanuts from Bradford Park Avenue in 1968 and for the next 16 years he gave 100% (we didn’t have 120% back then.) 114 goals in 574 games illustrates his attacking credentials but Hibbitt added the industry and creativity that marks out an accomplished midfielder. We loved him and when he came to the Molineux as coach with Bristol Rovers in the late 80’s he received the longest, loudest and most heartfelt ovation I’ve ever experienced.  9

CM: Ron Flowers

You could argue that, as a Wolves fan, I was born too late. By the 63-64 season most of the stars of the 50’s had hung up their boots and the glory days had come to an end. Mind you, the vast majority of the supporters had lived through that era and weren’t shy in pointing out that some poor so and so wasn’t fit to lace Mullen/Wright/Slater’s boots. If the vitriol didn’t stun the poor lad then the collective exhalations of beer and woodbine breath would. Ron, and my next choice, are the only players from the ‘Champions of the World’ team (Daily Mail) who were still playing regularly. An England stalwart who narrowly missed out on appearing in the ’66 World Cup final, Flowers was a strong, imposing player with a ferocious shot.  10

CM: Peter Broadbent

When the great George Best says you’re the player he most admired then you must have something going for you. Jimmy Greaves rated Broadbent too, as did regular crowds of 40,000 plus. Peter was a magician with the ball and a powerhouse in midfield. He was criminally underused by England, the prevailing theory being that Wolves already had their fair share of international players. The FA was obviously as useless then as it is today.   9

LM: Dave Wagstaffe

There was no more joyous sight than watching Waggy fly down the left, beat a defender or two and ping in a pinpoint cross. Then watch him do it again and again and again. He probably set up more goals than any other player of his era and was probably clattered into the advertising hoardings more than most as well. We absolutely loved him. 9

CF: Peter Knowles

Having a flawed genius for an idol can be trying at times. One week Knowles could be petty, disinterested and putting in yet another transfer request. The following week he would be sublime, bamboozling opponents with his skill and vision. He was by far the best player in the old second division for the two seasons Wolves played there. Things looked promising when we got back to the top flight in ‘67, none more so than the Dougan/Knowles partnership. Two seasons later, at 24, he quit football. He had it all but in the end he became ‘God’s Footballer’ (© Billy Bragg) and arguably one of the game’s greatest losses. We held on to his registration until ’82 when it became obvious, to one of the parties at least, that a Second Coming wasn’t on. Nice bloke though – when he first joined Wolves he was lodging with my mate’s neighbour and me and Alan used to call for him on a Sunday morning for a game of ‘three and in.’ 8

CF: Steve Bull

If Knowles was my idol then Bully was my hero. To have been able to see them play together would have been heaven. I won’t trot out The Tatter’s stats – suffice it to say that not only does he get into my best Wolves side, I’d also put him in my best side in the world ever. There may be more skilful players out there but none with more heart and more determination to break the back of the onion bag. Three against The Baggies and the old airplane celebration is the stuff of dreams. 10

Total score: 93

Manchester United 95 - Wolves 93

A surprisingly close affair settled by the timeless class of Charlton and Best as they settle matters with a goal apiece in 'Busby-time'. Prior to that Bully hits the base of Schmeichel's post whilst Ronaldo walks off in protest at the old-fashioned rough-housing from Munro and Palmer.

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