Are United Stronger Than In 1999?
David May believes that United are stronger than in 1999 when we won the Treble. We'll see.
'Look at the quality they have got now.
'Look at the midfield, with nine midfielders who can play across the field. It's absolutely amazing: Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, Scholes and Anderson, so many permutations. Whoever you play are fantastic footballers.
'They have got real strength in depth and probably the most consistent back four since Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister with Rio and Vidic.
'I don't think there's a better pairing and they keep getting better and better. They are awesome at times.'
Well, is it true? Are we better equipped? Of course the Treble is out of question because of that Portsmouth sucker punch but what about a Double? Is this squad ready for it?
Let's see. In Edwin van der Sar, we have a goalkeeper who is more reliable than Peter Schmeichel was in that final season (oh yes - watch your Treble videos my dear fellows, you'll see some shocking errors) but isn't capable of such glittering saves.
At the back, we are infinitely better. Stam never had a settled partner though that season he mostly played with Johnsen. They were both very good centre-backs but, especially Johnsen, nowhere near our current pair which is as close to perfect as it gets. I loved and deeply admired Dennis Irwin but the truth is that Patrice Evra is a slightly better player than him while, sadly, Wes Brown is a vastly inferior player to the Gary Neville of 1999.
Defensive cover is not much better: we have a Phil Neville in John O'Shea, Pique is inexperienced though more talented than either May or Berg was. Silvestre is still not ready so he does not count I'm afraid.
Midfield. Well, that's the big one. Ryan Giggs of 1999 or Ryan Giggs of 2008? Giggsy wasn't at the peak of his form in that season, it came a year later but he was better that time than he is now. Jesper Blomqvist was an able deputy, reliable but not as talented as Nani.
The central midfield is a no-brainer. This season, we have no first-choice pairing - that season, Keane and Scholes were magnificent and unquestionably the Premier League's two finest midfielders. In terms of squad depth though we are better off now: that time we had only Nicky Butt really, this time it's Anderson, Carrick, Scholes, Hargreaves, Fletcher - take your pick of two and you still have three to leave out.
Cristiano Ronaldo v David Beckham. 23 assists v 34 goals. Brilliant passing v breathtaking technique and dribbling. I think that Cristiano is the winner here but it's closer than many would think. Looking at the present day Beckham it's easy to forget what a phenomenal player he was.
In terms of cover for them, Jordi Cruyff against Ji-sung Park - take your pick, I'd prefer Park. And Fletcher can play on the right if necessary and does it better than Jordi did.
Up front. In terms of overall ability, nobody in that side could get even close to Wayne Rooney. However, all of them score over him in one very important aspect: finishing. Carlos Tevez is this season's Andy Cole if I had to make a comparison, albeit with more skill and inferior heading ability. With Saha permanently injured we do not have the same riches and there's another thing. None of our strikers are in the best form of their lives whereas in that season, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were both on fire, reaching a peak that they would never climb again. And don't get me started on Ole's ability to get us out of tight corners.
So, overall, the present side is technically and tactically superior, has a much, much better defence, more depth in midfield and a Cristiano Ronaldo. That side had a settled and magnificent first eleven, more depth in the striking department. This current team is, on paper at least, more suited to play in European competition and do not have such a formidable team in their way as Juventus 1999 was - Barcelona are struggling this year and nowhere near as menacing as in 2006. So in this sense, yes, we have a better chance to go all the way than we had in March 1999 though we did go all the way back then!
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