After two decades of madness and sheer dominance, Manchester United hit a colossal snag in the recently concluded decennium that spanned from 2010 to 2020. As Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down from the glorious mantle, things have never been the same for the Devils ever since.
From David Moyes to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it has been just consistent bouts of mediocrity and the struggle to stay afloat in a sea of rising sensations from all over Europe and England has been nothing short of war.
As we shuffle from one mediocre player to another, there were a few stars who shone brighter than the others, despite being in their twilight, surprisingly. In this story, we will take a look at the best eleven of the last decade for Manchester United. However, most players of the playing eleven will be from the initial years of the decade because once Fergie left, United took a dip in the deepest depths of despair.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
No one else wouldn’t even come close to the ballpark of the flying Spaniard as the bar that he has set for himself has been excessively high. When he joined United from Atletico Madrid, he was a walking fiasco. However, he revived himself with a blazing brand of goalkeeping that can only be written in the stars. He appeared in the PFA League Team of the Year a whopping five times, and won United’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year a staggering four times. Keeping aside the laurels, De Gea’s electrifying saves were what kept United going in one of the club’s murkiest phases.
Defenders: Patrick Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia
Though it was a tough call to opt for Evra over Luke Shaw, yet the numbers that the French international came up with were exceedingly overwhelming and despite a late surge in the numbers and the impact that he forced, yet Evra stood out in the war of left-backs. Just before we delve a bit deeper, let us remind you of that wonder strike hammered by Evra that woke the sleeping giants, Bayern and the Bavarians consumed United in a span of 15 minutes. With all said and done, Evra helped United to land two Premier League titles and was also a part of the 2010 PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year 2010.
The onset of the decade wasn’t particularly fruitful for Ferdinand, yet he stood out because Manchester couldn’t come up with a proper successor to him. From Smalling to Jones, everyone was a one-season wonder. Maguire made some amends towards the end, but Ferdinand was a rock. His towering presence helped Manchester United secure the 2011 and the 2013 Premier League titles, and he was picked for the 2012-13 PFA Premier League of the Year.
Ever since Vidic arrived at Old Trafford, his partnership with Ferdinand forged an impregnable wall ahead of the goalline. Once again, like Ferdinand, his exploits were almost identical because one cannot be spelt without the other. Sadly, for United, the defenders who were up next were not even close to this duo. The introduction of Varane can flag something different, but as of now, Vidic stands tall with his prestige unrivalled.
Valencia clocked a blistering speed of 33 kilometers per hour while he was plying his trade for Manchester United. He ranged as one of the fastest right-backs in the world in his time and was an absolute beast that one can have in their ranks. After a crisis watered down the exploits of Rafael da Silva, Valencia was shoehorned into the right-back position, and what followed was stuff from the folklore. He was a complete melange of speed, defensive abilities, shooting and most importantly an unbreakable physical stature. He won two Premier League titles with United, one FA Cup and one Europa League. He was named as the Manchester United’s Player Player of the Year twice and also received the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award once. He was also named in the Europa League Squad of the season in 2017.
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, Nani, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba
Michael Carrick dished out his swansong in 2017 and by then he had racked up every possible club honour that one United player can. From the five Premier League titles that he won, two of them arrived in the last decade. He also won the 2016 FA Cup, two League Cup titles and snapped up the Europa League in 2017. He was also awarded as the club’s Player of the Year in 2013 and was also included in the PFA Team of the Year in the same year. He had an impeccable eye for those accurate passes, but what made him so special was his impact in a team filled with mediocre stars who barely had any idea of what was happening around them. He played a whopping 464 games for Manchester United.
Nani was a blistering playmaker from the left, especially with his inexorable runs. He used to slip through the grips of the best defenders with foxy speed and dribbles, and those following crosses that were whipped into the box were a sheer delight for the fans. Though he is downplayed on countless occasions because of the fans expecting him to fill in the titanic boots of Ron, yet he was better than the others that United managed to bring in. Maybe Rashford was an exceptionally close competition, but the benchmark set by Nani was a bit higher than what Rashford have reached. In United’s screaming 2011 season, Nani strung 19 assists and 9 goals. He was an instrumental part of the Manchester United squad that reached the UCL final only to be upstaged by Barcelona.
Let us all remember that a passe Juan Mata in terms of his age wasn’t as effective as he was for Chelsea, but he brought a different game to the platter for United altogether. He compensated for his lost pace with some screaming midfield creativity and a few belters that would rattle the nets, with the ripples bubbling up for ages to come. Also, he probably is the best player of the decade, given the inconsistency that the other Manchester United players would come up with throughout the forthcoming decades.
Many may contest this decision to include Pogba in the line-up as according to fans, he has underperformed terribly. Maybe or maybe not? It was not his fault that he arrived at such a hefty price tag. However, if one man has consistently belted out decency since 2016, that is Paul Pogba. You do not deliver such pinpoint long-balls unless you are Paul. Those electrifying twists and turns, the crazy pace check, the thunderbolts from the range and most importantly the scathing words to people who deserve it were the perfect definition of the French sensation.
Forwards: Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie
Ever since the arrival of Solskjaer, Manchester United has switched to the deployment of a defensive midfielder. However, before that, it used to be entirely opposite as Rooney led the charge from the center. Initially roped in as an out-and-out striker, he found even better ground as an attacking midfielder. Not only did he score those screamers, but he created them too. He was almost untenable in the midfield. He is also Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer with 253 goals. Also, you would know what he was capable of after that overhead screamer against City in 2011 that settled United’s scores in 2011. Despite a downward momentum towards the end, he turned himself into a poacher in front of the goal, and it seemed that the flow of goals did never really wane for him.
If the image of a flying van Persie is etched onto your head for the good, then you are very well aware of what he was capable of. He was absolutely relentless in terms of scoring. It was a popular belief that he is leaving his prime at Arsenal, but what followed was simply a reckless brand of scoring, and the goals never stopped. He was extremely instrumental as United won the Premier League in 2012-13, riding on his heroics. He racked up 30 goals in his opening season at Manchester United and scored 28 strikes divided over the following couple of seasons under the chaperonage of David Moyes and van Gaal.
Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Luke Shaw