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Manchester United 2009: Is this the Premier League's greatest ever squad?

This is from todays Independent - interesting stats

Paul Scholes said after masterminding the win which took his side five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Wednesday night that competition for places at Manchester United was as strong as he had ever known it. "It's there in every position now," he said. The seven changes Sir Alex Ferguson made for the FA Cup tie at Derby were followed by a further seven against Fulham, with Ryan Giggs – the match-winner in United's previous two games – watching from the stands. It is nearly 18 months since Ferguson said he was custodian of his best United squad ever. The current squad is 10 per cent better again.


The cliché runs that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are Manchester United's defensive bedrock, though Ferdinand's absence for five matches with back spasms has given 21-year-old Jonny Evans 17 starts, which he has seized. He has only occasionally shown fallibility, curiously on an afternoon of least pressure at Southampton in the FA Cup, but his positional play and use of the ball were superb in the 3-0 win against Chelsea at Old Trafford and before that at Stoke, when thrown into a physical combat at the last moment. United have conceded just nine goals in the 18 games Evans has played.

The emergence of Rafael da Silva, with Gary Neville's comeback yet to materialise and Wes Brown out undergoing foot surgery, has been even more unexpected. The boy from Fluminese has demonstrated a wing-back's ambition, though assiduous United watchers also remember the way he snuffed out the threat of Robinho at Eastlands in November. John O'Shea might seem like the nearly man but in the 13 league clean sheets before last night's game his success rate in the tackle was 82 per cent, greater than any other United defender. It is a measure of United's strength in depth that while Brown was the mainstay in Neville's absence last season, he has mustered just 54 minutes of competitive play during the 14 games that United have not conceded this season.

Also in the defensive legion is Ryan Giggs, posted to left-back for 26 minutes as United held on against Stoke, though there is statistical proof that the old adage about being solid from front to back has applied. Against Chelsea at Old Trafford, in the match which underlined just how far United are ahead of the rest, Vidic was not called upon to make a single tackle. Three months ago, Edwin van der Sar's obituaries were being written, though the record 14 league clean sheets have put paid to that.


Van der Sar; 24 starts in Premier League

Kuszczak; 1 start (1 appearance as a sub)


Vidic; 24

Ferdinand; 19

O'Shea; 12 (7)

Evra; 17

Neville; 9 (3)

Rafael; 8 (2)

Evans; 7 (1)

Brown; 5 (2)

Eckersley; 0 (1)


There has been no dizzying Cristiano Ronaldo to dominate and destroy at will. He may not reach 30 goals this season, never mind 46 as in the last, and his ability to lift free-kicks over walls has diminished, though his runs are as damaging as ever and 15 goals are no mean tally to date. But it is the ability of returning players to make an immediate impact which has proved most debilitating for opponents. Ryan Giggs has played only 10 league games but has been a revelation in the central midfield role created for the now less fleet-footed individual. He has clearly revelled in the acclaim he won after his winner at West Ham, mesmerising Derby a week later in a withdrawn striker's role. Paul Scholes' two- month absence with ligament damage has made the same contribution difficult but his pass completion rate on Wednesday night – 66 passes, 64 of them successful – was astonishing. (Bizarrely, one of the two he failed with was a short pass on the edge of the centre circle.) Liverpool proved, in their 2-1 defeat of United at Anfield on 9 September, the importance of stemming Scholes' distribution when he plays, allowing him 20 passes in his 66 minutes on the pitch. Michael Carrick is an overlooked asset, but United's finest midfielder of the campaign to date. He deferred as Scholes as he shipped ball after ball to the right flank on Wednesday, though completed 56 passes of his own. The best Liverpool could muster against Fulham at home (minus Steven Gerrard) was Lucas Leiva's 33, in a 0-0 draw. Carrick's defensive positional play is the sting in the tail. As his manager observed recently: "He nips off threats towards the back four really well; that's where he has improved." There has always been a suspicion that the prevalence of Park Ji-Sung's name on the team-sheet is to service United's Far East markets, though Ferguson likes playing him in the Premier League, for which his durability is suited, even if he lacks the finesse. With Darren Fletcher weighing in with four goals, three during United's slow start, Nani and Anderson have been struggling to make a mark and if Owen Hargreaves, absent since September, returns next season after shin surgery, Anderson would appear to be a fifth-choice midfielder in the long term.


Ronaldo; 21 (1)

Carrick; 16 (3)

Fletcher; 17 (1)

Giggs; 9 (9)

Park; 15 (2)

Scholes; 8 (4)

Anderson; 8 (4)

Nani; 3 (5)

Hargreaves; 1 (1)

Gibson; 0 (2)

Possebon; 0 (2)

Tosic; 0 (1)


United's attacking depth was evident 20 miles across the North-west on Wednesday, in the form of Danny Welbeck, the 18-year-old striker, who has scored a goal for each of his last six hours of competitive first-team play and notched two more for the reserves against Wigan while the first XI were dismantling Fulham. The challenge for Ferguson has been how to deploy his four main offensive players and his side have gradually learnt to use Dimitar Berbatov as a creator, as much as a finisher, playing the ball to his feet as he likes – and not ahead of him. He is the first striker on the team sheet but United's best offensive player has been an extra midfielder for Ferguson, generally completing 25 passes a game, which is not far off Steven Gerrard's contribution for Liverpool. Wayne Rooney is also more of a force than last season, albeit with his usual fleeting bursts of goals – nine in seven for club and country, then none in seven – which are simply his way. The enigma is still Carlos Tevez, so desperate for a new contract he voiced his anger on Argentina radio last month. His five-goal Carling Cup haul against Blackburn distorts his 10-goal return and he did not register a shot against Fulham. But with all three strikers, plus Cristiano Ronaldo, in double figures, Ferguson can live without the 19 goals Tevez scored last season.


Berbatov; 21 (1)

Rooney; 16 (3)

Tevez; 13 (6)

Campbell; 1

Welbeck; 0 (1)

Manucho; 0 (1)

· Registered
3,351 Posts
Yep i think it's the best we've had, i think the end of the season will prove this with us surely winning the prem and a cup atleast, the champions league will be hard but im confident we can win that too :D

· United's masseuse
6,348 Posts
It`s one of the best innit,
let`s not stop there tho. I hope it produces once again this season, cause it`s useless having this productive squad without showing it. Let`s repeat what we did last season and do even more.
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