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United 2008 vs. City 2017: Who is better?

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 By Jason Dasey

Cantona and Stam, but Ronaldo edges Beckham in Parker's Man United XI

Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker presents his all-time Man United starting XI.

David Beckham was an eager youngster when Paul Parker signed for Manchester United in 1991, the year before the future England captain would win the FA Youth Cup with the Class of '92.

Both were from London and Parker, who played for England at the 1990 World Cup and made 146 appearances for United, would sometimes share a car ride south with Beckham during their time off.

But Parker, who works as a coach in Singapore, hasn't included Beckham in his best Manchester United team, chosen from the first 25 years of the Premier League, between 1992 and 2017.

"David was a nice young man back then, and you could tell that he would go a long way," Parker told ESPN FC.

"He would become a very good player, who maximised every ounce of his ability to carve out an impressive career.

Paul Parker's best Manchester United XI.
Paul Parker's best Manchester United XI.

"But in his position at wide right in my best-ever Man United team from the Premier League era, I've had to go for Cristiano Ronaldo. He was great when he left United, and would become even better at Real Madrid. He's a player I wouldn't ever want to play against as a full-back."

With Peter Schmeichel in goal, Gary Pallister in central defence, his good friend Denis Irwin at left-back -- plus Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona in front of them -- Parker's team is full of his former teammates.

But he makes no apologies for selecting men who emerged during his own 1990s era as he won five trophies, including two Premier League titles.

"I think that players back then were mentally stronger and they were just as talented as today, but in a physically tougher period of the Premier League," said Parker, who won the Premier League title twice during his five years at United.

"In goal, you'd have to pick Schmeichel. You can maybe talk about Edwin van der Sar, but nine out of 10 would say it's big Peter as your No. 1.

David Beckham celebrates in 1996
Parker says he knew David Beckham would go a long way, but prefers Cristiano Ronaldo in his Manchester United XI.

"I omit myself, of course, so I would have to say Gary Neville at right-back. There hasn't been a better left-back than Denis Irwin, even though people will mention Patrice Evra in the modern era, but, honestly, Denis was better all-round player.

"Alongside Gary Pallister, I would go for Jaap Stam. People will start talking about others like [Nemanja] Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. But I played with 'Pally' for five years and spent a lot of time watching Stam after that. Stam wasn't just aggressive, but also a good footballer. Very controlled and disciplined on the ball."

With Scholes and Keane, Parker will get few arguments about his choice of central midfielders in his Best XI.

"Roy Keane would be my captain because he got the best out of people ... maybe sometimes not in the best fashion, but he made a difference because he questioned players about how much it meant to them to play for the club.

Class of '92 graduates Gary Neville and Paul Scholes make the cut in Parker's Best Man United XI.

"Next to him is arguably United's greatest central midfield player in Paul Scholes. Why he never really got to play in the same fashion for his country doesn't make any sense, and England got it wrong there. But 'Scholesy' has been to be in any Man United great team.

"And as for Ryan Giggs in my 4-4-2, there has't been a better left-sided player in the last 25 years so he's an obvious choice in anyone's best Man United team."

Up front, Parker admits he gave serious consideration to Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Dwight Yorke before opting for a strike partnership of Eric Cantona and Andy Cole.

"Even though he wore No. 7, Eric played in that No. 10 role, and could also go up top. He could do everything," Parker said.

"Eric wasn't lazy. He would run behind, drop off, come into the deep areas and take the ball off defenders because he believed he could do everything. And nine out of 10 times, he could.

Eric Cantona helped nurture United's rising stars, winning the league and cup double twice during his five years at Old Trafford.

"Alongside him is Andy Cole. Not just because of the goals he scored, but because of the goals he made as well. 'Coley' was a complete centre-forward. He became an ever better player when he came to United in 1995."

Manchester United won 13 titles in the first 25 years of the Premier League era, including four out of the first five between 1992 and 1997. But they've failed to win the league in the four seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.

Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.

 

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