The end of an era
In 1994 Manchester United’s players of the era, including the club’s longest ever serving club captain Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, the great Dane Peter Schmiechel and Eric Cantona produced a single alongside Rock heavyweights Status Quo. The track hit number one, much like the team, who won the Premier League.
It was the early days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s quest to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’. Indeed, the success of United’s early-90s team was bred in a squad littered with great players, with this new-found glory sewing the seeds of Ferguson’s future triumphs and giving rise to the golden generation of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers and others.
Recently exposed to ‘Come on You Reds’ via the delights of MTV offers a reminder, albeit clichéd and unrepresentative, of just how far Ferguson’s ’94 team has evolved.
This, of course, is partly attributed to the rise of foreign footballers within the game. Where previous David May was an acceptable benchwarmer, local squad players have largely been replaced by imports such as Fabio and Park Ji-Sung. Neither of these players quite match Wayne Rooney or Cantona before him but are integral to the gradual improvement of the squad.
The English national team was once packed with United’s talent; it is now filled with players from across the Premier League. While English connection has very much subsided, the feel of Old Trafford’s United Nations has increased.
Whether this trend is linked to United’s disappointing season remains to be seen. What is clear is that the team of ’94 lived and breathed success, where today Ferguson’s side not only lacks the superstars of yesteryear but the traditional style once associated with the club.
The basic 4-4-2 system has departed for the continental 4-5-1 or 4-3-3. Lower-profiles of players such as Michael Carrick have replaced the big egos of Schiemichel, Keane, Cantona and Lee Sharp. And the mouth-watering , and the mouth-watering starting eleven has dissipated for a focus on the defensive tendencies of modern football.
Even at the forefront of world football – the World Cup – the bus has been parked on one too many occasions. So much so that even BBC pundit and Wolves manager Mick McCarthy has shown his displeasure and he’s one of the worst culprits in the Premier League.
The last fragments of United’s ’94 team are slowly ebbing away. Scholes has stated this may in fact be his last season as a player. Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville cannot continue much longer. Where will the replacements be found?
Indeed, the success of earlier squads was founded on a British element at the core of the team. Arsenal’s shortcomings in the Premier League over the past five season might be correlated to a lack of true passion for the British game. When Liverpool ALMOST made it back to the big time two years ago Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard nearly drove Rafa Benitez’ team to success, not Albert Riera or Alvaro Arbeloa.
Not that national heritage should determine players’ inclusion in the United side but every efforts needs to be made to give the young homegrown players at the club a real chance at making the first team. Few have made it in recent seasons.
Ryan Shawcross, as one example, will no doubt grace the steps at Wembley as a fully fledged England defender but found chances at Old Trafford hard to come by. Even imports brought to the club have been lost. Lessons must be learned from the early release of world-beater Gerrard Piqué, who was sold far too early for a price lower than that paid for Zoran Tošić.
Whilst not every generation can contain a player of ’94 club captain Robson’s class and leadership, United fans do wish a few more superstars in the current team.
United’s ’94 single is cheesy but the characters are remembered. How many of the 2010 side will also be recalled with affection in 15 years time?