Picking just 11 players proved to be a difficult task for Iron centre-back Rory McArdle, as he recalls watching so many greats play the game growing up, and in the present day.
With a mixture of old and new, McArdle talks us through his all-time XI, and which players narrowly missed out.
MANAGER: Sir Alex Ferguson
RMc: “I think his record speaks for itself, despite nearly getting the sack early on, and Manchester United’s poor form since he left shows just how important he was to them. He’s won so many trophies and assembled some amazing teams.”
GK: Peter Schmeichel
RMc: “Whenever you talk about the great Manchester United teams, the goalkeeper involved was largely him. A save that stands out for me is when he saved Bergkamp’s penalty in the FA Cup Semi Final.
RMc: “He was part of very successful Brazil and AC Milan teams. I remember in 2002, everyone wrote off that Brazil team, but he captained them to glory which sort of summed him up as a player.”
CB: Fabio Cannavaro
RMc: “This was a tough one, but Cannavaro won player of the tournament one year for his country, which is generally unheard of for a defender. He played at the highest level for a number of years, even at Real Madrid.”
CB: Paolo Maldini
RMc: “He was one of the most versatile defenders of his time, playing left-back, right-back and centre-back, but I’ll slot him in the middle.”
LB: Roberto Carlos
RMc: “Carlos was part of that ‘Galactico’ era, and one of the first full backs I remember that used to bomb forward successfully. I also remember his famous free-kick he bent round the wall and Barthez just stood there helpless.”
CM: Andres Iniesta
RMc: “Despite it not being his main asset, he used to pop up with very important goals for club and country, like the extra-time winner against Holland in the World Cup final, and a late equaliser against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.”
RMc: “I think you’ve got to have both Xavi and Iniesta. Xavi epitomised tiki-taka football over a long period of time, and was probably underrated in that Barcelona team.”
CM: Zinedine Zidane
RMc: “He always scored big goals in big moments, and probably makes it into most people’s all-time XI, he won just about everything.”
RW: Lionel Messi
RMc: “I don’t think you can look past Messi. We’ve been fortunate to have him and Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi’s all round game is amazing, and he tends to keep himself to himself, which I quite like. Hopefully he can win something with Argentina.”
RMc: “It was a shame he had injury problems because he just scored so many goals. Similarly to Cafu, he was part of that Brazil team that won the World Cup, amongst other things throughout his career.”
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
RMc: “He’s just recently scored his 700th career goal, which says enough about him as a forward. His goal-scoring record is impeccable, and he’s still performing at the highest level despite his age.”
THREE WHO MISSED OUT:
CM: Roy Keane
RMc: “Everyone knows about the presence and influence he had on his teammates. He drove Manchester United to results when they sometimes didn’t look like winning.”
LW: Ryan Giggs
RMc: “Another one whose medal count is through the roof. He played so many games for Manchester United at the highest level, and I can recall his wonder goal against Arsenal which he created all by himself."
ST: Thierry Henry
RMc: “If it wasn’t for having the luxury of Messi and Ronaldo, Henry would’ve made it in the starting XI. He oozed class and – on his day – was untouchable.”