JOE’s combined Manchester United and Arsenal XI of the Premier League era
This was the subject of quite a bit of debate, as you might expect.
Inspired by Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira doing likewise on their much anticipated ITV documentary tonight and by Piers Morgan, Paddy Power and a helluva lot of others doing likewise on Twitter today, some of the football heads in the JOE office decided to have a stab at a combined Manchester United/Arsenal best XI from the Premier League era.
Considering United’s position at the top of the Premier League roll of honour and Arsenal’s in joint second alongside Chelsea, there were any amount of players to choose from and the omission of some truly great players from the final selection may come as a surprise.
The selection panel consisted of Manchester United fans, Arsenal fans and neutral parties so we’ve tried to be as balanced as possible and try and remember that it’s all a matter of opinion before sending a shedload of abuse our way, even if it may well be deserved. *JOE dons helmet and hides behind couch*
Combined Manchester United/Arsenal XI from the Premier League era (4-4-2):
Peter Schmeichel: There is still little doubt that he is the best ‘keeper the Premier League has ever seen and there were times in the mid-90s when it was nigh on impossible to get the ball past that giant frame. His importance to United was reflected in the length of time it took to find an adequate replacement, which didn’t happen until the arrival of Edwin van der Sar in 2005.
Gary Neville: Not flashy by any means and was almost as disliked by Arsenal’s fans as he was by Liverpool’s but he was solid, dependable, often inspirational and formed an excellent partnership with David Beckham down United’s right side. It wasn’t always highlighted, probably because of Beckham’s presence, but he was also an excellent crosser of the ball.
Sol Campbell: A Champions League final goalscorer, a member of the incredible Invincibles and a defensive lynchpin at the Gunners for five seasons, the former Spurs man dealt with that difficult transfer by being virtually flawless on the pitch. Only recently have Arsenal come close to replacing him.
Rio Ferdinand: He’s not the player now that he once was, but for a few seasons he was one of the classiest defenders around. He complemented Nemanja Vidic brilliantly and their partnership is one of the best in the history of the Premier League.
Ashley Cole: Another Invincible, and multiple title winner in his time at Arsenal, his departure, and infamous 'crashed the car' quote, means he is not well loved at his former home. But in his time at Arsenal he became one of the world's very best full-backs and his ability to defend and attack was truly exceptional.
Cristiano Ronaldo: He’s entered another stratosphere in recent seasons but in his last two campaigns in particular at United he was beginning to morph into the devastating and merciless beast we see at Real Madrid today. He’ll probably win another one next month, but Ronaldo’s first Ballon D’Or came while he was still with the Red Devils in 2008.
Roy Keane: Remains arguably United’s most inspirational player of the Premier League era and arguably the most inspirational player the league has seen. Those qualities often detract from the fact that he was a brilliant player and a brilliant central midfielder, but it was his leadership that made him truly great.
Patrick Vieira: A colossus in every sense of the word, he was Arsenal's Keane and equally irreplaceable. In almost a decade at Arsenal he was the driving force of Wenger's greatest teams and offered a mixture of silk and steel that was perfect for the Gunners' system.
Ryan Giggs: To be still going and still performing well at Giggs’ age is a remarkable achievement and though he operates more centrally now, he is still the best left winger there’s ever been in the Premier League, as Arsenal found out to their cost when conceding THAT goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final.
Dennis Bergkamp: One of the best ever Premier League imports, his skills were off the charts and he could, and did, conjure goals out of nothing. Not afraid to get a bit nasty too, Bergkamp was a once-in-a-generation player and Arsenal just happened to have him for his peak years. An absolute blessing for Wenger and Arsenal.
Thierry Henry: Premier League top scorer in four seasons, third on the all-time list with 175 Premier League goals and a scorer of every type of goal imaginable, Henry was a phenomenon. A serious contender for the best player in the world during his time at Arsenal, for a long period he was able to terrify defences just by togging out. We know his reputation is not great over here, but he more than deserves his place here.