Date: 18th April 2013 at 11:01pm
Written by:

The Late Winner

Having been handed the responsibility of picking the Manchester United team of the season for Red Flag Flying High, I have decided that before jumping into it, a couple of questions need to be addressed.

Do I select an XI based on what has proven to be our most successful tactical formation or should I just pick the eleven most consistent performers?

Am I bold enough to pick the players I think deserve to be in there and risk the wrath of the ‘stat men’ amongst us? After all, there is more to the beautiful game than ‘stats’.

Finally, I must stress that I have always found the process of selecting player of the year and team of the year before the season ends, quite an unnerving job.

What if one the players I have selected goes on to score ten own goals in the next five fixtures? It will make my choice look ridiculous.

Many of you will agree with my choices; most of you will criticize them, but none the less, I am going for a 4-2-3-1.

David De Gea It is baffling to think that at the start of the season there was a doubt if he was our number 1. Anders Lindegaard is a good goalkeeper, but De Gea is world class. Bigger, stronger and meaner than last year – the Spanish shot stopper has had an ever growing presence throughout this campaign.

Moment:  A string of saves at the Bernabeu which kept Real Madrid at bay.

Rafael – For years we have all known about the ability of this Brazilian full back, but for too long he was fragile. It was as though his shins we made of glass. With injury problems firmly behind him, Rafael has put in excellent performances as an attacking full back.

Moment: An important equaliser at Anfield.

Rio Ferdinand – Like a fine wine Rio gets better with age. These days what he lacks in pace he makes up for by being two steps ahead in his mind. There is a reason Sir Alex has wrapped Rio in cotton wool to preserve him for the big games. It is vital he signs a contract extension.

Moment: A bloodied head at the Etihad. It just meant that much.

Nemanja Vidic – You simply cannot under estimate the influence the United captain has on the side. He leads by example and puts life and limb on the line. Vidic missing three quarters of the 2011/12 campaign and United losing the title on goal difference was not a simple coincidence. He makes a difference. Many of you will probably expect Evans to be in this side – yet for me his performances have been nowhere near as good as Ferdinand and Vidic.

Moment: A colossal in the snow at White Hart Lane.

Patrice Evra – Despite the lack of competition for this position, Evra has been superb for the entire campaign and a very worthy stand-in captain.  It is obvious he cannot bomb forward as much as three or four years ago, but he still gives  100% to the cause and does a great job. Added goals to his game this season. Patrice Evra can remain one of the top left backs if he is given opportunities to rest. Perhaps more responsibility should be handed to Buttner next season?

Moment: Captaining and scoring in a thriller on boxing day.

Michael Carrick – He dictates the tempo of the game. He remains composed at all times. He closes opposition down in a heartbeat. He never gives the ball away. He is Mr Cool. Michael Carrick would get into any side in the Premier League.

Moment: The rare goal against Stoke.

Tom Cleverley – This has been a big season for Cleverley as many of us anticipated a new arrival for the position in the summer. Ever present at the heart of Roy Hodgson’s England midfield and a regular starter alongside Carrick for United – a lot of trust placed on young shoulders. I am expecting big things from him in the future.

Moment: In the battle of the future England midfield, Cleverley slaughtered Wilshere at  Old Trafford.

Danny Welbeck – The once gangly, awkward looking footballer has materialised into one of the hottest talents in Europe this season. Welbeck possesses frightening pace and power and has justified why Sir Alex has kept faith in him since joining United as a schoolboy. Lacks a killer instinct in front of goal… but it will come.

Moment: That header which should have gone on to mean more than it did. A real shame.

Ryan Giggs – I appreciate Giggs has only played in a third of the matches this term, but the quality he delivers in his time on the field is astonishing. The 39 year old has the energy of an infant who is hyperactive on sugary sweets, as well as the quality to rival the late, great Georgy Best. At times, Giggs has run the show for 90 minutes, or made a difference in a five minute cameo. Genius.

Moment: FA Cup third round. Has anybody ever seen a better assist? Half volley, 50 yards, last minute.

Wayne Rooney – The idea of Rooney leaving Manchester United puzzles me, and the suggestion that he hasn’t reached his potential is laughable. He has won everything at the club. At 27, Rooney still has at least five years in his prime ahead of him. Leading our assist charts this season and popping up with goals when they matter – Rooney has played a vital part, and I hope will continue to do so next season.

Moment: Fulham away. Season defining moment.

Robin Van Persie – A snip at £24m. A quite remarkable finisher. Is it too much to say he is a cross between Cantona and Van Nistelrooy?

Moment: Hat-trick hero at Southampton. Setting the precedent for what the world can expect.

That concludes the Manchester United best XI for 2012/13.

If I had to pick a rival season XI, here are my choices:

Cech,  Zabalete Kompany Williams Vertonghen,  Yaya Toure,  Bale Mata Walcott,  Michu Benteke

No doubt I have missed somebody. If so, please set the record straight and leave a comment below.

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