The Ajax Team That Manchester United COULD Have Been Playing (But Aren't)

With a front-five to challenge Barca, here's the great Ajax side that never was...
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With a front-five to challenge Barca, here's the great Ajax side that never was...

This guy's in the team- the rest of them that might have been playing Manchester United aren't too shabby either


Right now, in a parallel universe there are previews being written about a forthcoming heavyweight European cup clash between two of Europe’s giants of the game, Ajax and Manchester United.  In this parallel universe, the European Cup is still called the European Cup, United didn’t lose to Basel and Ajax havn’t had to sell-off their best players every year for the past decade and are a major force in the game.

This isn’t the case of course, there are no parallel universes and in this universe this spiel is being written prior to the less glamorous/important fixture between the clubs in the Europa league, but nevertheless it is illuminating to pick the team Ajax could field if they hadn’t been forced to sell so much talent over the last ten years.

They could field a side that could really damage this United team and anybody else (though the current Ajax team can probably cause enough damage if United are not at strength and/or up for it) and looking at some of the silverware the following players have amassed it’s fair to say at least some of it would have headed Amsterdam’s way.

They could field a side that could really damage this United team

1.Maarten Stekelenberg -  Long-tipped to succeed Edwin van der Saar at club-level as he had done at international, when Stekelenberg finally did leave Amsterdam it was surprisingly for Rome rather than Manchester. He is A top-class Dutch keeper with all that has come to mean. He’s big, agile and he’s represented Holland in the World Cup Final. Perhaps Manchester United should have followed Holland’s lead when replacing big Edwin.

2.Gregory van der Wiel -  The latest Ajax star to rise through the clubs famous system and probably the next to be sold abroad, van der Wiel is the only current Ajax player who makes the team (though Danish wunderkind Christian Eriksen would make the bench). An athletic modern full-back van der Wiel has all the attributes to go to the very top of the game. It would be a surprise if he didn’t leave Ajax in the summer and there’s a club that hasn’t replaced Gary Neville who ought to be in the market for his services.

3.Maxwell -  Leaving the current World and European club champions is not a move many would make but the promise of Arab oil-money and the chance to join a seemingly-coming force has recently seen Maxwell swap Barcelona for PSG. Plus when you’re 30 and have won 2 Dutch titles, 3 Serie A titles, 2 La Liga titles, 2 FIFA club world cups and the Champions league you might be inclined to think that short of playing for FC United at Gigg Lane you’ve achieved all you can in the game and fancy chilling  down the Sorbone.

4.Christian Chivu -   Three Serie A titles and the Champions league have been Chivu’s rewards since he left Amsterdam, to put alongside the Dutch leagues he won with Ajax. One of the most consistent defenders in world football, has been a mainstay of the successful Inter side of the past few years and is a player Ajax could have based their defence on for a decade if the lure of Italian cash could’ve been resisted. He wears a funny leather rugby-style Peter Cech-type mask these days but he gets away with it because his covers his face and makes him look a bit like Batman.

Three Serie A titles and the Champions league have been Chivu’s rewards since he left Amsterdam

5.Johnny Heitinga -  Often described as an English-style defender during his Ajax days, the fact that Heitinga currently plies his trade for David Moye’s Everton rather than a regular Champions league club can be put down to strange career choices on his part and luck on the part of the Toffees. A move from Ajax to Athletico Madrid was seen as the first step on an upward trajectory that was heading towards a top-four Spanish or Italian side.

6.Nigel De Jong - Amsterdam-born and Ajax-bred De Jong epitomised the ‘new’ Ajax of the mid-noughties, the aggressive, athletic face to complement the aesthetic grace.  He may currently only be Gareth Barry’s understudy at Man City but one of them is a World Cup finalist and the other plays for England. Undoubtedly one of the dirtiest bastards currently playing, De Jong is also one of Europe’s finest ball-winners and a top-drawer player in the Edgar Davids mould. Despite the fawning over the ‘Barca-model’ many teams still need a niggly bleeder in the middle and there’s not many better than De Jong.

7.Wesley Sneijder -  Won the league with Ajax back in 2003. Since then, Serie A and La Liga titles, a Champions league win and FIFA club world cups have all followed.  Everybody likes Wesley. Everybody would like him in their team.  One of the top midfielders in world football, he can pass, he can score, he’s mobile and he has a cheeky smile. Wes has been linked with Manchester United loads of times, never more so than over the past 12 months. He’ll either join them when he’s 33 or sign for City in the summer.

8.Rafael van der Vaart -  VDV is often viewed as a ‘typical’ Dutch player as his mardy-arsed/moody-ness can often obscure what is a brilliant natural talent. Obscure is perhaps the wrong word but there’s been ‘something’ going on with him that has seen him end up at Tottenham at the age of 27. No disrespect to Honest Harry’s 3rd place challengers but VDV should be playing on a consistently higher stage. Leaving Amsterdam to join unremarkable Hamburg was an odd move and his chance on the big stage at Real Madrid never really came-off.  Often seen as a replacement for Sneijder at international level, he could well replace the pipe-dream of the Glazer’s buying Sneijder for United by following the well-trodden route from the Lane to Old Trafford. He’d be a lot cheaper. He’d offer more ‘value’.

Suarez maybe a cheating gobshite but he’s a magical player and an absolute Ajax legend

9.Luis Suarez
-  I don’t know what formation this team would play and it would probably make more positional  sense to include Ajax’s current wonder-boy/next player sold Christian Eriksson  but Liverpool’s unlovable Uruguayan would have to be in the team. Suarez maybe a cheating gobshite but he’s a magical player and an absolute Ajax legend. His goalscoring at the club was phenomenal, the 2009-10 season saw him score 49 goals in 48 games but it was his all-round play, as we are now seeing in this country, that really impressed. He won the Copa America last summer and seems to be still improving as a player. He’s a narky twat but you’d definitely have in him in your team.

10.Zlatan Ibrahimovic -  Big Zlat divides opinion like no other player. Clearly one of the most effective strikers in world football, he can be lazy, sulky and a bellend and he has never managed to convince some critics. There are many who feel he is over-rated, over-feted and over-inflated but there are many more, not least Zlatan himself, who feel that he is the best centre-forward in the world.

It’s easy to see why clubs like Juventus, Barcelona, Inter and Milian have invested over £100 million in Ibrahimovic as he seemingly guarantees the league title. In a decade he has led clubs to 2 Dutch Eredivisie, 1 La Liga and 6 Serie A titles. He has also twice been  Serie A top scorer and its player of the year.  He’s not as good as he thinks he is but he’s still one of the best of his time.

11.Klaas Jan Huntelaar -  £45 million quids worth of transfers have seen Huntelaar fail to entirely deliver on his earlier promise but the Hunter is getting back to the form he showed at Ajax and  would form a deadly partnership with Ibrahimovic.  Now at Shalke, he is a star of the team rather than a Madrid/Milan Sub and the German’s are reaping the rewards and winning trophies.

At international level he has a superb return of 30 goals from 50 caps and whilst his trophy cabinet dosn’t groan like some of his team-mates he too can put a World Cup runners-up medal on the table.

They’d have to get a good coach in as I can’t put that into the right formation but Cruyff, Van Gaal or Steve McClaren could handle it

So Stekelenberg in goal, a back-four of van der Wiel, Maxwell with Heitinga and Chivu in the centre. A middle-four of Sneijder, De Jong , Van Der Vaart and Suarez with Huntelaar and Zlatan up front.  If Ajax had that lot still playing for them this game wouldn’t be on a Thursday night in the Europa league.  They’d have to get a good coach in as I can’t put that into the right formation but Cruyff, Van Gaal or Steve McClaren could handle it.

Right now, in the parallel universe, this would be a preview of a mouth-watering, historic, heavyweight Champions league tie, rather than a game at least one of the teams would rather not be taking part in. Unless Ferguson picked his Champions league teams from a tombola in that universe as well.

Need more excuses for distraction? Try these:

Manchester United: All Grit And Guile Won't Catch City

Manchester United: Champion's League Elimination May Be A Good Thing

There's Only Two Manchester Uniteds

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