EVALUATING just how good this Manchester United side is in comparison to Sir Alex Ferguson’s many other title-winning teams at Old Trafford is a difficult one, because they have won the Premier League so comfortably.
Strikers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have both had outstanding spells this term and then gone off the boil, and the team have suffered. But the 2012-13 vintage are still a very good outfit.
The deciding factor in the title race has been their consistency. They have had very few slip-ups, have scored when they have needed to and kept clean sheets when it has been most important.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has said United are no better than his side, but consistency is a great barometer of a team and this season no-one has come close to matching Ferguson’s men. Is this a great United side? No. Or not yet, because I think they are just on their way to doing great things. They’re a work in progress and I believe they’ll be better next term.
A number of players are maturing, such as defenders Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rafael, and goalkeeper David de Gea, and that should be a warning to their rivals.
What counts against them is that they have played in a very average Premier League season, and have fallen short in the Champions League, albeit with some misfortune contributing to their exit to Real Madrid.
But with Van Persie and Rooney playing at their best level United can be formidable in Europe too. They fancy Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski and I think he’d be a terrific addition.
There is no doubt that Van Persie’s 21 league goals have been invaluable and that he’s been worth every penny of the £24m they paid Arsenal for the Holland forward last summer.
He makes it into my all-time United XI under Ferguson, although it is a hugely complicated task. The game has changed so much in his 27 years at the helm, and he has evolved United’s style, meaning more continental-type players arriving. That adaptability, however, has been key to keeping them at the top.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played in two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.
MY ALL-TIME FERGIE XI
Starting line-up (4-3-3)
Peter Schmeichel; Gary Neville,
Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra; Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs; Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie
Edwin van der Sar, Paul McGrath, Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Teddy Sheringham, Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona