Never one to let a good grudge die out, or pad his bank account when given an opportunity, Sir Alex Ferguson was back in the headlines this week with yet another autobiography hitting the shelves.
Coming only two years after his last effort, a lengthy and somewhat rambling tome, one might wonder what Fergie could possibly have to say in this new edition.
As usual there's talk of players the club missed out on, a bit of light cast on what went on behind the scenes with the squad at Old Trafford and the settling of scores.
But one section that definitely did feel amiss, is his claim that the club had only four world class players during his time at Old Trafford. The players he named were Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although I don't find fault with any of those four choices, I feel Ferguson has grossly overlooked the credentials of several men that helped him win so much silverware and accrue so much fame and fortune.
While the definition of a world class player can vary, it's generally agreed by most football observers that it takes a sustained period of excellence while be considered to be the best in your position to reach this level.
So, with that said I wouldn't attach the definition of world class to Wayne Rooney for example, who has had runs where he has looked brilliant, but has also suffered from prolonged periods of drops in form. He's been a great player, but for a variety of reasons hasn't quite hit the level of being a world class player.
Likewise someone like Patrice Evra couldn't be considered world class. He was a great left back, who was United through and through while contributing significantly to the club's success, but Patrice had a few gaps in his game that kept him from being among the absolute best at his position.
There are a few players that I was on the fence about, like the terrific Bryan Robson who was coming into the latter stages of his career when Fergie was in his Old Trafford pomp, and David Beckham, who was for a time one of the best midfielders in Europe. They were both brilliant and a case could be made for them to be called world class.
But the players I feel Ferguson really overlooked are:
The Great Dane, Peter Schmeichel is arguably the greatest keeper the Premier League has seen and was certainly the best at his position during the 1990's. Besides his brilliant play and a stockpile of trophies for United, he also helped Denmark to a shock win in the 1992 European Nations Championship. How Fergie overlooked him is puzzling.
Roy Keane was a force of nature that seemed to epitomize United's will to win under Ferguson. The all action midfielder is mainly remembered now for his fierce tackling and combustible personality, but Reds who watched him each week recall him as a complete midfielder who could do whatever was required, be it make a key pass, score a big goal or yes, put in a crunching tackle. Whenever his contemporaries, including his on pitch enemies like Patrick Vieira, are drawing up lists of the top Premier League XI's of all time, Keane is usually the first name on the teamsheet for most of them. Fergie very obviously ignored Keane because of the continuing bitterness between the two.
The big Dutch defender Jaap Stam was the bedrock upon which United's famous treble side of 1999 was built. A powerful and yet intelligent defender who Ferguson later admitted to selling too soon. That sale came as a result of a massive bust up between the two after comments were made in Stam's book that his transfer from PSV hadn't been completely above board. This feud may also be the reason he isn't on the list of Fergie's world class players.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
The most natural finisher that played under Ferguson at Old Trafford, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored 95 goals in 150 appearances for United, including a remarkable 38 goals in 47 matches in the UEFA Champions League. Despite being one of the deadliest strikers in Europe in the first decade of the 21st century, the fact that he fell out with Fergie in his final season with the club seems to play heavily into why he's not been mentioned as a world class player by the boss.
A divisive character thanks to his contract squabbles, a notorious missed drugs test and his shameless self promotion, Rio Ferdinand was one of the finest defenders in the world for nearly a decade. He helped form the backbone of Ferguson's third great side with his classy play in the United rearguard. The above mentioned reasons that some Reds aren't in the Ferdinand fan club may also provide a clue to why Fergie snubbed him.
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