It’s the return of an old favourite as we bring you Manchester United’s Worst XI. The result of much scouring, thinking and reading of suggestions has came up with this team…
Massimo Taibi – 4 appearances, 1999-2000
Massimo Taibi is not a bad goalkeeper. Trust me. He wouldn’t have had two spells at Milan or hundreds of games in Serie A otherwise. However, he’s best remembered as one of the many horrendous replacements for Peter Schmeichel post-treble season. Taibi cost United £4.5 million and only played four times but, in that time, he managed to concede five at Chelsea, let Sami Hyypia score by flapping at a set piece and, most famously, let a Matt Le Tissier pass back trickle through his hands. He was shipped off back to Italy in January 2000 and that was that for Taibi.
Jonathan Spector – 8 appearances
Spotted playing for the American U17s, Spector impressed the watching Manchester United scout enough for him to phone Sir Alex straight away and sign the young defender in 2003. The only problem was that Spector was a striker that was merely filling in at the back for that one game. Oh well. Spector impressed at reserve level but when it was time to make the step up, he was nowhere near good enough. Imagine the United squad of 2004/05 and then think about how Spector only managed eight games at the back even when there was a huge injury crisis. That about sums it up. One loan spell at Charlton later and he was sold to West Ham.
Laurent Blanc – 75 games, 4 goals
A French legend and world-class defender, Sir Alex spent five years trying to sign Blanc and eventually got his man in 2001 to replace Jaap Stam. The only problem – Blanc was 35. No matter, he would do the job. Except he didn’t as Blanc stumbled and struggled through nearly 30 Premier League games in his first season at the club as United finished trophyless for the first time in four years and in their lowest ever Premier League finish (to that point) all the way down in third. He did win the title with United the following season but played far less and for good reason as he left that summer.
William Prunier – 2 appearances
Often voted into these lists, there could have been so much more for Prunier at Old Trafford. Initially a trialist, he arrived during an injury crisis at the back and was drafted into the first team. He did OK in his debut but in his second game, he was blamed as United were torn apart and conceded four at Tottenham. Completely inept and hopeless in that game, Ferguson decided the only option was to offer Prunier an extended trial. Incredibly, Prunier turned it down and left his legacy in English football as Cantona’s crap pal who was shown up by Spurs.
Jordi Cruyff – 45 appearances, 8 goals
Johan’s son was a decent player. He did well at Alaves after United and was talented enough to hold his own in his dad’s Barcelona side but that was pure nepotism. Cruyff’s time at Old Trafford is a story of poor performances and injuries. The problem for Cruyff was the lofty expectations his name carried and when he never got near those expectations, questions were raised. He was certainly capable but United was a step too far for a player that had been too comfortable in his dad’s shadow in Spain and was caught out when he stepped out of it for the first time.
Kleberson – 30 appearances, 2 goals
The man described as the “driving force” behind Brazil’s 2002 World Cup triumph, Kleberson was a highly sought after commodity with his work rate and physical style suiting him to most top teams. It was Manchester United who won the race and fans were excited… until he played. What they got instead of a World Cup winning star was a tame and average midfielder who struggled in the rough and tumble of the Premier League. He lasted just two years and 30 games before being sold to Besiktas in a cut price deal.
Eric Djemba-Djemba – 35 appearances, 2 goals
Roy Keane’s long-term replacement ended up being just another pretender to the throne. Djemba-Djemba was perhaps the worst of the lot and only lasted eighteen months before being shunted out the door to Aston Villa where he played fewer games than he did at Old Trafford. He’s even made it into *shameless plug* my Premier League Worst XI on The Boot Room he was that bad. He might have been named twice but that wasn’t because he was any good.
Ralph Milne – 30 appearances, 3 goals
Ralph Milne was a supremely talented footballer whose personal demons stopped his career reaching the level it should have. A part of the Dundee United side that won the league title in 1983, Milne’s career had declined but he had managed to find some form at Third Division Bristol City when Ferguson spent £150,000 on him in 1988. Milne flopped badly as United ended the season down in 11th and the following season he played just once before being loaned to West Ham then released. Ferguson regards Milne as his worst buy too which is certainly saying a lot.
David Bellion – 30 appearances, 6 goals
Sir Alex Ferguson spent £3 million on David Bellion who was a supremely quick player but that was about it. He had managed one goal in the league for Sunderland and didn’t fare that much better for United. He managed only four league goals and another couple in the cups and never actually impressed that much. He was so poor that he was hauled off when playing up front on his own against then non-league Exeter. He was very quickly shipped out by Ferguson to make room for strikers with actual talent.
Garry Birtles – 58 games, 11 goals
It took Garry Birtles a whole season to score a goal for United. That’s not bad under the right circumstances; say a young player just finding his feet at the top level. However, Birtles was a two-time European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest and cost United £1.25 million which, in 1980, was a colossal amount of money. Birtles’ goal drought was so bad that it caused to nearly get killed in a car accident (seriously, he wrote about it in the Telegraph) before he managed his first goal nearly a year after signing. He got 11 the following season but was eventually sold back to Forest where he regained some of his form.
Dong Fangzhuo – 3 games
United’s first ever Chinese player took a whole two years to arrive from China due to work permit issues but when he did, boy did he do nothing. Dong managed to impress in Belgium for feeder club Royal Antwerp before being allowed into Manchester where he played just three times and contributed literally nothing to United. His contract was terminated mutually for the poor man to find first-team football which has been a resounding failure – Dong has managed just 18 league goals since leaving United in 2008.
Dave Sexton – 1977-1981
Tommy Docherty might have taken them down in the 1970s and David Moyes might have failed hugely but Dave Sexton wins the contest for worst United manager ever for his four years of boring football and zero trophy wins. The man that signed Birtles might have had some fleeting moments of success but under him, United were nothing more than a boring, average club which was a far cry from the European Champions of about a decade earlier.
There also has to be some players on the bench who were just good enough (and I use good loosely) to miss out on the starting eleven and they are:
- Mark Bosnich
- Pat McGibbon
- Diego Forlan
- Liam Miller
- Juan Sebastian Veron
- Gabriel Obertan
- Rodrigo Possebon (suggested by @FussballMundial)
Do you agree with this Manchester United Worst XI? If not, tell us who you would include in the comments or over on Twitter.