Utd squad may be Fergie's finest

FanZoner Pete Hall argues the case for Sir Alex Ferguson's current crop being the greatest Manchester United squad ever.

Last Updated: 25/03/13 at 21:04 Post Comment

Sir Alex Ferguson: Has built his best-ever squad

Sir Alex Ferguson: Has built his best-ever squad

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It is a statement that always comes up when Sir Alex Ferguson's latest crop of talent are firing on all cylinders, and one that divides fans and pundits alike.

There's the team that started it all; the 1992/93 squad of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona, Lee Sharpe, Andrei Kanchelskis and co who brought United their first top flight title for 26 years.

Then there is obviously the treble winning team of 1998/99 consisting of arguably the greatest midfield of all time, and the European champions of 2008 who could boast the enigmatic talent of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, in terms of strength in depth, the squad in M16 today is the strongest it has ever been, and is capable of dominating English football for years to come.

Nowadays, it is a nice feeling to be able to walk down Sir Matt Busby Way to Old Trafford without apprehension of what team Sir Alex will choose.

With the sheer variety of talent in the squad it is no easy task picking the 'strongest' team, but having such choice is certainly a luxury that is the envy of many.

The 1993/94 side was also brimming with talent. Cantona was undoubtedly the star of the show, having already proved the catalyst for United's first title in over two decades.

The supply came from a youthful Ryan Giggs, Sharpe or Kanchelskis, with added support from new signing Paul Ince, or from veterans Bryan Robson or Brian McClair.

The defensive stalwarts of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister provided a solid rearguard with the Great Dane Peter Schmeichel provided an almost impenetrable brickwall behind.

However the strength in depth left alot to be desired. We were fortunate that Pallister and Bruce remained pretty much injury-free throughout at this time, as cover was in short supply.

With the emergence of Rafael; Jonny Evans impressive consistency; Phil Jones and Chris Smalling being so versatile along with established stars like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra - picking the defence is much more difficult today.

The 1998/99 treble-winners blew Europe's elite out of the water with some thrilling comebacks and counter-attacking football, and did so with arguably the most complete midfield quartet of Sir Alex's reign.

Giggs' pace and wizardry, David Beckham's pin-point crossing, Roy Keane's refusal to be beaten and Paul Scholes' timely arrivals on the edge of the box complimented each other perfectly.

However, were any of these instrumental four to pick up an injury, or in Roy Keane's case suspended, then aside from Nicky Butt, the alternatives were not great.

Jesper Blomqvist and Jordi Cruyff did a job, but were not quite of a standard worthy of gracing the hallowed Old Trafford turf.

That first choice midfield was by far and away of a higher calibre than today's best line-up, but should the likes of Michael Carrick or Scholes get injured, panic is the last thing in our Scottish chieftain's mind.

With the lively Tom Cleverley, the finesse of Shinji Kagawa, the evergreen Giggs and having Wayne Rooney capable of dropping deeper, the list of suitors in the centre of the park is boundless.

A Ronaldo-inspired side clinched United's third European Cup in 2008, which immediately led to comparisons with Sir Alex's previous winners.

A front three of Rooney, Carlos Tevez and the Ronaldo had defences all over the continent quaking in their boots.

The striking options today may not get the blood pumping like Ronaldo and co did, but in terms of having diversity amongst the ranks, Sir Alex now has a quartet for all occasions.

With the irrepressible Robin van Persie leading the line, Javier Hernandez picking off the scraps, Danny Welbeck running the channels and Rooney capable of the playing in the trequartista role as well as being the focal point of the attack, we are in great shape up top.

Stats don't lie. At this stage of the season we have the most points we have ever had, and are not showing signs of relenting.

With a win ratio of 78% from our 27 games, compared to 56% at this stage of the treble winning season, in a league we are a constantly told is the strongest it has ever been, we are certainly in better shape than many give us credit for.

We may not have the same attacking flair or superstar individuals of years gone by, but we have become so efficient at getting the job done, and have done so by utilising our vast squad resources.

With today's schedule as demanding as it has ever been, the term 'team' applies to more than just the starting XI.

Covering practically every possible scenario, Sir Alex can almost field two sides capable of beating most teams, but it hasn't happened overnight.

As with most things with the most successful manager of all-time, each signing, although not ground-breaking, aside from van Persie's capture, was all part of a long term plan.

And that plan was to continue his glittering dynasty, which our youthful squad are more than capable of shoulder long into the future.

Follow Pete on Twitter at @pistolpeteh86.

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