Perfect XI: Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United dream team

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He worked long and hard to bring you the five-part story of Alex Ferguson's reign, so we let Vithushan Ehantharajah pick his finest United line-up from the Fergie era...

You’re all thinking it, so we may as well address the absence of “you know who” from the get go. 

Look, I love Juan Sebastian Veron – “La Brujita”, the beautifully bald one (not a direct translation) - as much as the next man, but I’m afraid he’ll have to settle for the bench… oh right, you meant Wayne Rooney.

There’s no denying 'Wazza' is hugely talented – or that he deserves a place in Ferguson’s top 20 players since taking over at Old Trafford – but in choosing a front two, the frank answer is that Rooney is simply not good enough to oust King Eric or Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Cantona’s link up play is superior to Rooney’s, while Van Nistelrooy’s record of 150 goals in 219 appearances is not to be sniffed at.

That being said, in the interest of synergy, there was also a strong case for Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole – their partnership proving integral to Ferguson and United’s historic Treble.

The absence of David Beckham – another key figure in that Treble-winning side – is no slight on the former England captain, rather an appreciation of the astronomical rise of Cristiano Ronaldo during six years at the club which saw him become the first United player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2008 (Beckham himself was a runner-up for the gong in 1999, missing out to Rivaldo).

Perhaps the biggest bone of contention comes in United’s backline, where Gary Pallister and Nemanja Vidic were benched for Jaap Stam and Rio Ferdinand. Stam’s size and pace would strike fear into the hearts of opposition forwards, his bloody-minded aggression was one of the driving forces of the successes of 1999 – and his occasional “shout-offs” with Peter Schmeichel were particularly entertaining.

Pallister, together with Steve Bruce, instilled a pride in the Manchester United defence that is still prevalent now (though Stats Zone may have something to say about that), but Ferguson’s own admission that selling Jaap Stam to Lazio was one of his biggest regrets says it all.

It was the introduction of Vidic that helped United reconquer Europe, but Ferdinand’s composure and quality on the ball helped United build from the back. In an era where the ability of England players were greatly exaggerated, he was one of a small group worthy of the ‘world class’ label.

Irwin, a model of consistency and professionalism, lacked the pace of Evra, but was immaculate in his positioning, solid in the tackle and threatening in the final third. Before Beckham, the Irishman was entrusted with dead-balls, and delivered as well as anyone.

As for between the sticks, it’s a no-brainer; Peter Schmeichel should go down as one of the great keepers of all time. I realise it’s unpopular to label someone as a “great” – certainly without consulting the entire footballing fraternity (particularly the loud and anonymous) – but anyone who watched the great Dane at United would have seen someone at the height of their powers, with a total appreciation of their position.

As for Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, with 24 trophies and 2,163 appearances between them and counting – and who knows how long Giggs could keep playing – well, they weren’t too bad either.

The rest of the “squad”: Edwin van der Sar, Gary Pallister, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney, Juan Sebastian Veron… (OK, maybe not…)

GALLERY All 38 of Sir Alex Ferguson's trophies at Manchester United