In his time at Old Trafford, George Best (1946- 2005) set the bar for all United wingers that would follow. The young boy from Belfast graced the pitch with such a delightful enthusiasm and love for the game that people paid for their ticket just in hope that he would produce that one thing, which was just a little bit special. The Northern-Irishman was the first player to fill the gap left by the late great Duncan Edwards (1936-1958) who had his life tragically cut short in the Munich Air Disaster.
Thanks to his sublime touch, playful arrogance and undoubted genius, the winger was able to do things in a match that only the likes of Pele & Maradonna could reproduce, but regrettably, due to his nationality he was never able to showcase his skills on the world stage. Regardless, George was undoubtedly considered one of the finest footballers of his time.
Since then, the Stretford End has always looked for wingers that embody the spirit of Manchester United; Hard-Working, Exciting and Brilliant. In Sir Alex’s time, we have been lucky enough to witness just some of these attributes displayed on the pitch, shown especially for the past twenty years by a brilliant Welshman who goes by the name of Ryan Giggs. Nobody has appeared in a United shirt more often than the speedy winger (859 apperances) who has, arguably, had the most illustrious club career ever. However, it is has been on the other side of the field where the problem of being a United winger has had to be solved and re-solved.
In his time at Manchester United, Ryan Giggs has seen many people play on the right side of midfield who have all added their own dimension to the famous #7 shirt. First, there was the speedy Russian winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, who was vital to our success in the formative years of the Premier League. The electric winger worked hard for the team and is the last player to have scored a hat-trick in the Manchester Derby, during the 5-0 demolition of City in the 94/95 season. Then, there was David Beckham who came up through the United academy into the first team as the finest dead ball specialist Manchester had ever seen – after his goal against Wimbeldon from the half-way line, it was obvious that the boy was destined for greatness. The famous comeback in Munich, “Can They Score? Manchester United Always Score,” would not have been possible without his two sumptuous deliveries. Famously, for his country, he also brought anarchy to the nation when he scored against Greece, at Old Trafford. Most recently however we have been lucky enough to have had a tricky teenager from Madeira transform from an over zealous step-over champion to the deadliest midfielder in Manchester United history. Through hard work and determination Ronaldo turned himself into the closest reincarnation of George Best United fans have ever seen.
The Portuguese Kid was Just-a-Bit Special (Great Video- Impressive)
Since Ronaldo’s £80 million departure to Real Madrid, we have had both Nani & Valencia to thank for some wonderful performances. Neither has reached the heights of their extraordinary predecessor but they have both made big impacts. Last year Valencia (37 apps, 7 goals, 11 assists) was an influential figure on the right and this year, Nani (18 apps, 7 goals, 9 assists) has blossomed during the Ecudorian’s extended injury break. However, it is the players who will go on to replace them that are proving hard to find. During the madness of transfer deadline day it came to light that two more academy prospects have decided that they stand no chance of getting the #7 shirt.
Cameron Stewart, a promising England U-19 international, made his loan move to Hull permanent (for 300k) and Gabriel Obertan, the £3 million French Under-21 International, handed in a transfer request (just after the window slammed shut bizarrely). Stewart, who’s contract only had 6 months left to run follows a long list of Academy wingers who have been deemed good enough elsewhere but not met the United standard. Chris Eagles, now at Burnley, was deemed to lack an end product at Carrington but this season, in the Championship, has been rivalling United’s transfer target, Adel Taarabt for skills and is now looking for a move to Everton in the summer. Similarly, Gabriel Obertan has decided that he wants to return to France because he does not think he will make the grade @ OT. The standard set by United wingers in the past has now added another two victims, as the standard required by the fans remains as high as ever. Regrettably, if a youngster is not deemed good enough then they will be dispatched with quickly.
Star of the Homeless WC, and highly regarded by Carlos Querioz- Bebe.
Looking ahead, United have two very interesting talents (who I will profile in due course) looking to grace United’s right wing. Firstly, there is Bebe, the Portuguese winger/ forward plucked from obscurity after his £7 million move in the summer. His obvious talents are his speed and physique but many hours of coaching are needed before this rough diamond enters the first XI fold. There is also Manchester-born Ravel Morrison who made a cameo appearance in the Carling Cup this season, before his personal problems were unveiled. The skillful England youth international is highly regarded at Carrington for his unbelievable talent but there were always questions about his personal life. However, it seems he has been given a second chance having escaped a jail term for an offence I/ media cannot reveal (due to a super injuction) but only time will tell whether Ferguson will believe he deserves to stay at Manchester United.
Overall, it is unlikely the Reds will have another Best, Giggs or Ronaldo in the near future simply down to the law of averages but the future for our wingers seems promising. Nani, stepping out of Ronaldo’s shadow, has already tuned into the Premier League’s most potent winger this season and Valencia, who will hopefully recover fully from his injury, is a great player. However, we will have to wait and see if United can unearth another legend in the coming years through the Academy or if Ferguson need spend in the transfer market, on a player such as the highly regarded Alexis Sanchez. Regardless, the future’s bright, the future’s red!
Note: It is 53 years today since the Busby Babes played their last match against Arsenal, which they won 4-3, before they were involved in the Munich Air Disaster, RIP.