This week it was revealed by the great Sir Alex Ferguson, that of all the players in the game today only two are world class: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. That sounds about right, except for the fact that those two have been absolutely out of this world for the best part of 8 years so world class does them a disservice. Players like Neymar, Gareth Bale, Thomas Muller and Luis Suarez are the best of the mere mortals, those are world class players.
This lead the Knight of the realm to explain to us who his world class players have been. You’d think that the former manager of Manchester United for 26 years would have a long list. Apparently not as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo were the only players mentioned. What happened to David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and to a lesser extent Wayne Rooney?
When we look at the level of consistency at the highest level that Cristiano and Messi have upheld as true world beaters, only Paul Scholes can rank as highly as those two in my opinion. The problem for Scholes was his low profile and the fact that he’s a central midfielder, they just don’t have the gloss that forwards do. In his heyday Scholes was as good as Xavi and Pirlo in my opinion who were all world class during at that time. Ryan Giggs has the longevity but dealt with injuries for so long and and played second fiddle to Ronaldo, Scholes and even Cantona for so long. Ryan Giggs was a loyal servant and outstanding player but was he ever the best or one of the best in his position over a sustained amount of time? Sir Alex seems to be calling his most loyal soldiers “world class.”
Sir Alex is a man to hold grudges. Even when he forgives you he holds a grudge. That has lead to him missing out one a chance to acknowledge several players.
David Beckham in my opinion should’ve won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1999. The most pivotal player in the treble season with 23 assists in all competitions. Rivaldo won a La Liga and failed in the CL group stage and yes Manchester United were in that group. If you remember, Becks scored a beautiful free-kick against the Blaugrana as well. A few years later, Beckham would again be voted as the second best player in the world behind Luis Figo. Beckham is and will always be the best crosser the game has ever seen and serial winner. When asked about his snub Beckham said “I tend to agree with the manager.” I’m not sure there’s anything else he could have said but that doesn’t make it right. If Beckham hadn’t married Posh Spice and been forced to join Real Madrid I guarantee he’d be on the gaffer’s list.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s goal scoring record while at Old Trafford was spectacular (by normal human standards at least). Perhaps Fergie didn’t put Ruud in the world class group because he only won three trophies during his time in Manchester. While at Old Trafford he was the best pure striker in the world. Ruud left for Real Madrid where he was top scorer and continued to be the most lethal striker around until he left for Hamburg. Maybe poachers don’t get as much respect as they should do. He did fall out with Sir Alex but the two have made up. As we all know, Ferguson never forgets.
Roy Keane was simply world class. I can’t have a conversation with anyone who doesn’t agree with this notion. He’s irritated me to no end with his constant bashing of Man United since his spat with Fergie but that shouldn’t deter anyone from admitting the truth. It’s difficult to name many centre midfielders better than Keane in his pomp. That heroic performance in Turin alone isn’t something that any player can easily recreate. I wish Sir Alex could let bygones be bygones here.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic formed one of the best defensive partnerships in Manchester United history, in England and in the world during their time together at Old Trafford. They broke a European clean sheet record and put the fear of God into strikers all over the world (Fernando Torres aside for Vida). How is it then that Ferguson ignores them? Is it a sign that Ferguson holds defenders in lesser esteem than forwards? It probably is considering that Sir Alex himself was a striker. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand intercepting through balls doesn’t tickle his fancy. Or a robust Vidic last ditch tackle doesn’t float his boat. In these two giants he had the best defenders in the world; someone tell me how that’s not world class.
One player who definitely divides opinion is Wayne Rooney. Is he in the Ruud and Roy a Keane group of player who fell out with Ferguson and never gets the praise he deserves? Or is he just not at that level? Honestly, it’s a bit of both. Wayne Rooney had one season where he was one of the top 5 players in the world. In 09-10 when Ronaldo left, Wazza was unstoppable. Only injury curtailed what surely would’ve been champions league victory considering Inter Milan won it that year. If not for the injury that one point deficit to Chelsea in the league would surely have been evicerated. He scored 35 goals that season and it easily could’ve been higher than Ronaldo’s 42. The problem with Wayne Rooney is he’s a nearly man. Like Ryan Giggs he was also second fiddle except for 2009-2010 and 2012-2013, both years United lost the league on the final day. Openly questioning Ferguson and flirting with City was the end of Rooney for Sir Alex and the signing of RVP was supposed to be the final nail in that coffin. Wayne’s versatility was a blessing and a curse as it never allowed him the continuity needed to cement his place among the attacking great class. Ronaldo and Messi don’t play in other positions unless they want to, the best players command that respect. Wayne Rooney as a result will only be seen as top class ,a rung below world class. He will be England’s top scorer ever and very soon United’s but that won’t be enough to propel him to the highest echelon and it’s not all his fault.
So I reject the notion that Sir Alex has only had four world class players. Any of the players I mentioned here could get into any team in the world in their hey day and yes that includes top class Wayne Rooney. Sir Alex should’ve looked behind the forward and let go of grudges and given credit where it clearly is due.