In Robert Altman’s biting Hollywood satire The Player, a movie producer makes a pitch to a studio executive where he says for his latest film he wants “no stars, just talent” to appear in it.
“What the hell is that?!” The incredulous exec asks, the idea subsequently goes out of the window and Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis are cast as the leads.
The idea of ‘no stars just talent ‘ is one that could be applied to the current United team, as despite having some of the best footballers in the world in his squad, Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have assembled a group of true team players.
In the past United have always had at least one or two ‘superstars’ who’ve received all the plaudits and been plastered all over any magazine- both football and otherwise- you’d care to mention.
In the early 90’s it was a certain Ryan Giggs who seemed to be the team’s real super star, although of course Eric Cantona was arguably just as lauded by the media.
Giggs and Cantona seemed to transcend normal football fame, with the Welsh wizard becoming the first pop star footballer of the Premier League era while Eric, was such an enigma- a philosophical, fan kicking genius, that the press couldn’t help but lap him up.
As we entered the mid nineties it was the turn of David Beckham to become the team’s real star. Although Paul Scholes was arguably the more gifted player and Nicky Butt had the better chant it was the Posh Spice marrying sarong wearing free kick maestro who rose to the forefront of the class of ’92.
Beckham’s star power was such that he was easily the biggest name at the club –at least in terms of the media- until he departed on the Battleship Galactico for the Bernabeu.
This more or less ushered in the era of a certain Portuguese winger with a penchant for stunning free kicks, shed loads of goals and the odd bit of ‘performance art.’
Although Ronaldo wasn’t a star as soon as he arrived, by the time United were reclaiming the title in 2007 he was far and away the most talked about player in the Premier League, although his infamy had started earlier at the 2006 world cup.
Since Ronaldo left for a far less galactic time at Real Madrid, the main player in terms of media attention and expectations has been Wayne Rooney. He’s been United’s biggest ‘star’ gaining more column inches for both on and off the field activities.
When it comes to being a ‘star player’ then Rooney would obviously be the first name everyone mentions of the current team, yet is he really a ‘star’ in the strictest sense of the word?
Yes he’s a global name, who’s one of the most talked about players in the game but he’s not quite the same sort of animal Cristiano Ronaldo was.
Rooney’s happy to be moved around the pitch, he doesn’t moan when being subbed- Blackpool away- and unlike other stars is happy to play a supporting role to a new striker who’s currently the talk of the town.
The point I’m making is that in the past United have always had one or two major stars that seemed to be the focus of not just the media’s attention but also the opposition.
Whether it be Eric, Giggs, Beckham, RVN or Ronaldo there’s been one player who’s perhaps more talked about or even more feared than the rest of the squad.
Now however United seem to have a team made up of unsung heroes. Take Sunday’s must win clash, over Chelsea the top United performers were by and large not the types who always get the credit they deserve.
Obviously Chicharito has been rightly lauded over by the media and fans alike and that shows no signs of abating, as his phenomenal talent just makes everyone sit up in awe.
Other top performers though, Antonio Valencia, Ji Sung Park, Michael Carrick are ones that are often overlooked when it comes to the players we praise the most.
Ryan Giggs of course received a well earned man of the match award and he will always be respected as a true legend, but at his age he’s now more of an elder statesman than a superstar. The sort of player where the words ‘respect’ and ‘admired’ are not out of place on rival fan’s forums when it comes to discussing him. Can you imagine any rival fan saying that about David Beckham when he was at United?
Even Dimitar Berbatov, a £30 million signing who’s now our leading scorer is not a star in the true sense of the word. He’s happy to sit on the bench –despite all his goals- and unlike some rival strikers doesn’t spit his dummy out about it.
Yes United have some of the most gifted players in the world, Nani, Evra, VDS, Vidic, Rooney, I could go on, are all players that would walk into practically any team. But unlike past years we now seem to have a team made up of talent rather than ‘stars.’